Should we take away the right to strike?
A strike is the control of labour by employees in order to obtain better wages or working conditions. Hence, the right to strike is one of the most treasured and fundamental rights for all. In 1800s, legal status of labour unions in Canada is unambiguous. Unions of United States and Great Britain mostly affected Canadian union development. Criminal charges were filed against unions, who tried to strike or bargain in Quebec and Ontario in the years 1815 & 1837 respectively. In 1987, “Charters of Rights” played a significant role in labour relations. However, unfortunately this right cover only freedom of association. It covers neither right to strike nor collective bargaining. “In the year 2015, due to the efforts of Saskatchewan Federation of Labour Decision, the Supreme Court of Canada legalize the constitutional right to strike” (Mass & Blanc, 2016).
Unionized employees stop working in order to fulfill their demands or wishes regarding employment or any unfair labour practice. Workers get involved in strike to obtain some improvement in conditions of employment such as to decrease working hours and increase wages. “Strikes may also be conducted with the aim of compelling an employer to recognize a labor union as the legal collective-bargaining representative of the employees, and to conclude a labor contract with the union.” (Funk & Wagnalls, 2017). The principal tactical aim of all the types of strikes whether political or economic, is to make sure that the work should be suspended in the concerned offices or organizations till the time demands of workers would not fulfil by employer. “The most widely used secondary or subsidiary means of achieving the aim of strike, invoked after the workers have quit work and left the business establishment, is the practice of picketing” (Funk & Wagnalls, 2017). One of the motives of strike is to prevent the employer from doing actions that against employee’s interests such as firing an employee without adequate proof and justification. Furthermore, it also prevents employers to use any unfair labor practice. “An unfair labor practice strike is one in which an employer has engaged in an unfair labor practice prohibited by National Labour Relations Act.” (Funk ; Wagnalls, 2017)
The Supreme Court of Canada gives Canadian workers the fundamental right to strike. This right is one of most basic right. Canadian government approved the right to strike for all the public and private sector employees. “The majority’s view, however, was that the right to strike holds a special place in labour relations.” (Rothstein, 2015). Freedom to strike tends to lessen the imbalance of power in between employees and employers. Hence, it becomes necessary to put an end to employer’s unfair benefits. “In essentially attributing equivalence between the power of employees and employers, this reasoning, with respect, turns labour relations on its head, and ignores the fundamental power imbalance which the entire history of modern labour legislation has been scrupulously devoted to rectifying.” (Abella, n.d.). Charter’s protection of freedom of association also protects right to autonomy and dignity of susceptible individuals. “This collective action at the moment of impasse is an affirmation of the dignity and autonomy of employees in their working lives” (Abella, n.d.).
Why should we strike?
Just about every country in the world recognises that workers should have the right to take strike action. Some countries except Canada consider as strike to be a form of self-empowerment. “Right to strike gives self-empowerment, it has very little to do with a legal order granting certain rights or powers.” (Wass, n.d.). Millions of migrant workers, mostly from third world nations, are trapped in this system. They can’t change jobs unless their employer allows them to do so. Moreover, they can’t leave the country unless their boss signs an exit visa. Furthermore, strike union and trade actions are totally forbidden. “When people’s right to strike is taken away, they end up feeling themselves as slaves because now they are entirely dependent on their boss decisions. “(“Public Laws for Labour”, 2014). Hence, this right helps in creating a common field for both employers and employees where they can talk to each other directly. Employers are considered in a far superior economic condition than employees. Hence, giving employees the right to strike helps to maintain this imbalance. “Right to strike is essential in evening the playing field between workers and employers.” (Abella, n.d.). A reason supporting the point that workers should be allowed to strike is that they can fight against poor safety conditions. For example, a person working in a nuclear power industry has high chances of getting accidental injury. In contrast to, employees are exposed to nuclear material, which can lead to serious illnesses like leukemia, cancer, radiation associated pathologies. (Henriques, 2014). On the contrary, some people would argue that this strike action causes disruption to the general community and media people would highlight this news and turn the media spotlight on the employers. Employers have lot of public pressure on them at that time and they have to accept employees demands.
Strike. (2017). Funk ; Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, 1p. 1. Retrieved from http://ra.ocls.ca/ra/login.aspx?inst=confederation;url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true;db=funk;AN=ST198200;site=eds-live;scope=site
Wyld, A. (2015, January 30). Canadian workers have fundamental right to strike, top court rules. Sean Fine. Retrieved from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/top-court-upholds-canadian-workers-right-to-strike/article22717100/
Gray, J. (2010) The Right to Strike Under the United States Constitution: Theory, Practice, and Possible Implications for Canada. Canadian Labour and Employment Law Journal, p15. Retrieved from: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1582245
MacEachern, D. (2018, September 12). CBC news: Canada Post workers vote in favour of strike action if deal can’t be reached. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/cupw-postal-workers-strike-1.4819960
Ontario health workers could cause hospital backlogs. (2015, January 30). CBC News Retrieved from: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/kitchener-waterloo/ontario-health-workers-strike-could-cause-hospital-backlogs-1.2937539