There is a difference between a strike and a lockout, although they are related. Both are also known as “work stoppages.” A strike is a general withdrawal of services by the members of the union because they are not willing to accept the employer’s offer for a collective agreement. Strikes can be over wages, pensions, health care benefits, seniority rights, health and safety conditions, job security and other issues.
Under the UFCW Canada Constitution, a strike cannot happen unless the members vote, by secret ballot, to authorize the union to call a strike if necessary.
A lockout happens when an employer refuses to allow union members to come to work unless they agree with the employer’s proposed collective agreement. A lockout is an attempt to force union workers to accept the employer’s settlement terms, or to try to force the union to make substantial compromises in its position. Obviously, the workers do not get to vote on whether or not their employer locks them out.
In reality, there are very few strikes or lockouts in Canada. Over 95% of all negotiations end in a settlement without a work stoppage. Of those work stoppages that do happen, most last only a short time. For example, in 2000, only one work day in 1,655 was lost to a strike or lockout.
The reason it seems like there are more strikes than actually happen is because the media often reports on “threatened strikes” that never take place. And since it is often necessary to threaten to strike to get the attention of the employer at the bargaining table, those reported threats become, in many people’s minds, actual strikes, even though they never happened. It’s one example of how the media distorts the image of unions.
The following is a list of some of the sectors in which UFCW Canada members work:
Breweries, Distillers and Soft Drinks
Cereal and Flour Mills
Credit Unions and Financial Services
Health Care Services
Nursing and Retirement Homes
Warehouse and Distribution