Is Canada set for more strikes?

'There's a knock-on effect that other workers see and learn from… so we can see this kind of activity spread'

Is Canada set for more strikes?

Several unions are holding labour strikes throughout the country, and more may be in store, two experts warn.

Strikes in one sector could have a domino effect on other sectors, note Moshe Lander, economics professor at Concordia University, and Simon Black, associate professor of labour studies at Brock University, in a Global News report.

“If a public sector union can negotiate a 12-per-cent wage increase over three years and another union goes to their employers and say, ‘I want the 12 per cent over three or I want more than 12 per cent over three,’ how does the employer turn around and say, ‘No, you can’t have that’ when another union’s already agreed to it?” says Lander.

This is what happens when we see a strike action, says Simon Black, associate professor of labour studies at Brock University.

“We see workers learning from other workers,” he says in the report. “There’s a knock-on effect that other workers see and learn from that. And so yes, we can see this kind of activity spread throughout the economy, to different sectors.”

Thousands of unionized Metro grocery workers walked off the job in the Greater Toronto Area on Saturday, after Unifor Local 414 members voted to reject a tentative collective agreement. That came just as stories about the labour strike at B.C. ports continued to fill the news.

Earlier this year, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) went on a strike said to be one of the biggest in Canada’s history.

Financial struggles for workers

The biggest cause for workers’ dissatisfaction is their financial struggles coupled with the apparent business success of employers, notes Black in the Global News report.

“Workers have seen their real wages, their purchasing power, eroding a great deal under this inflationary period. And yet, large corporations have made record gains, while working class households have struggled. I think there’s good evidence that the corporate profits and not workers’ wages have contributed disproportionately to inflation,” Black said.

In 2022, the Bank of Canada gave staff bonuses amounting to more than $20.2 million – while the Crown corporation hiked interest rates seven times and inflation reached a 40-year high, according to a non-profit organization.

Meanwhile, 76 per cent of employees have felt stressed or overwhelmed about the cost-of-living increases in the past six months, according to a previous report.

How to prevent a labour strike

Here are some steps you can take to minimize the risk of strike action in your business, according to U.K. law firm Shakespeare Martineau:

  1. Make sure your employees feel they are treated fairly.
  2. Ensure clear and regular communication with your employees, especially if there is a dispute with working conditions or pay.
  3. Ensure you’re compliant with your recognition agreement with workers.
  4. Consult a legal professional to ensure the technical process, if there is an impending industrial action.
  5. Work with union representatives to prevent a strike.
  6. Tap a third-party mediator if negotiations with the trade union reach a standstill or become too heated.

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