Another measure we will be watching closely is that of work stoppages. Within the unionized workforce, work can be stopped because workers have gone on strike (which only happens when the collective agreement expires and negotiations have not yielded an agreement) or because the employer has “locked out” workers. Employers lock workers out when they are trying to get them to accept changes workers are opposed to and, therefore, won’t sign a new collective agreement.
There are two kinds of unionized workers: those who work in the public sector (the Province; the City; crown corporations; schools and universities for example) and those who work in the private sector.
Over the past 20 years in Manitoba, we have seen relative labour peace; relative to other periods in our history and relative to what is happening in other parts of the country. In fact, since 2000, labour stoppages for provincially regulated employees have grown fewer, have lasted for fewer days and have involved fewer workers.
Between 2000 and 2015, 2001 saw the greatest number of work stoppages (for both private and public sector unionized workers) at 11 when a total of 2,442 workers were either on strike or locked out for 26 days. Since then, these numbers of decreased steadily; in 2012 there were no work stoppages and in 2014 there was one stoppage involving 18 workers for 5 days. The vast majority of these work stoppages involved private sector workers.
Pallister’s Conservatives have only been in power for seven months and there have already been two public sector strikes (for more read this about the University of Manitoba professor/librarian strike or this about the MacDonald Youth Workers). Both these articles raise other concerns we have about this government’s approach to labour relations.
We’re worried that as far as labour relations go, things are deteriorating, not improving. Stay tuned; the messaging coming out from the government indicates this could be an area with a lot of action (unfortunately).