Strike Processes in Play

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If you live in Ontario, you may be aware of the current escalating labour dispute between the provincial government and three of the unions (ETFO, OSSTF, and OECTA) representing English elementary and secondary school teachers in the province. As of January 2020, it appears that negotiations at the bargaining table have stalled, the teacher unions have implemented a series of rotating strikes across the province, and the government has not offered any public statements about a possible resolution to this dispute being in sight.

What is common to all of the parties, at this point in time, is that they seem to be caught in a classically entrenched, positional struggle. This means that nobody is willing to make the first move out of their position, or stance, to get back to the bargaining table to negotiate a resolution. Instead of being focused on negotiations with each other, the parties are focusing on the process of escalation, in order to find leverage to use as a pressure tactic against one another.

From a labour relations process, this dispute is unfolding as it should be. How it may end, is explored by Global News in this recent video post and written analysis.

As noted by Global News, there are options which all of the involved parties—unions and government—need to consider as they try to find their way out of the current conflict.

Which option the parties choose to take will be determined by their need to either maintain a positional stance and keep the escalation of pressure mounting, or they may find a need to relieve that pressure and make a move out of position, back to the bargaining table to re-start negotiated discussions. Either approach will provide a resolution.

Continued escalation may result in prolonged strikes, back-to-work legislation, and/or an arbitrated decision that forces a resolution onto all of the parties. A negotiated settlement, however, means that the parties themselves must come up with solutions that they can all agree upon, and live with for the duration of a renewed collective agreement. In both approaches, the end result will be a resolution of the dispute.

The degree to which the parties will be satisfied with the results, and the means of resolution used to get there, will be entirely up to them, and the constituents that they serve.

Discussion Questions:

  1. If you were representing the government, would you prefer to have a negotiated settlement, or a settlement achieved through an arbitrated decision? Explain your rationale.
  2. What is the leverage that unions hope to achieve through the escalation of strike action?
  3. According to the article and video, what are the issues for each of the parties involved in this dispute?
  4. How would you propose to resolve this dispute? Explain your rationale.