In the education sector, under the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, the central parties are the employee bargaining agent (represented by unions), the employer bargaining agent (represented by Trustees’ Associations), and the Crown (represented by the Government of Ontario).
Ontario education sector collective agreements expired August 31, 2019. However, under the Labour Relations Act, these agreements remain in effect beyond their expiry date until a new contract is reached or until the parties are in a legal strike/lockout position.
The parties are required by legislation to meet and to bargain in good faith. This means that each side must make every reasonable effort to reach a collective agreement.
At any time after bargaining starts, either party can apply for conciliation. Conciliation involves an application to the Ministry of Labour requesting the appointment of a conciliation officer who will meet with the parties and help them reach a settlement.
When conciliation fails, the Minister of Labour can issue a notice informing the parties that he or she does not consider it advisable to appoint a Conciliation Board. This is known as the no-board report.
Once a no-board report is issued, the parties may not legally strike or lockout until the 17th day following the issuing of the no-board report.
Strike and Lockout
A strike is a cessation of work, a refusal to work or to continue to work, a slow-down or other concerted activity on the part of employees designed to restrict or limit what they do. An education worker strike is any action or activity by education workers that is designed or expected to have the effect of curtailing, limiting, or interfering with: the normal activities of the board or its employees; the operation or functioning of schools or programs; and the performance of education workers as set out in the Education Act; or, a regulation including the withdrawal of services.
Several things must occur to be in a legal position to strike or lock-out:
- The collective agreement must have expired
- In the case of a strike, a strike vote must have been held
- A "no-board" report must have been issued
- A strike or lock-out can only start on the 17th day after the "no board" notice has been mailed
In addition, at least five days before the strike begins, the employee bargaining agency must give written notice of the strike indicating the date that the strike will begin.
A lock-out is when an employer closes a workplace, suspends work or refuses to continue employing a number of employees during a labour dispute. Like a strike, written notice must be submitted, in this case by the employer bargaining agency, at least five days before the lockout begins.