June 02, 2022
Strike Commonly asked Questions

Below is a list of Frequently Asked Questions. Additional information may be added as more questions may come in that will need to be answered:

1. Picketing has been defined as “patrolling at the entrance of the employer’s business by members of a trade union who carry/wear signs or distribute leaflets in order to publicize a labour dispute with a view to persuading employees, suppliers, and customers not to work with or deal with the employer” (Lancaster House).   The Labour Relations Code specifically permits picketing aimed at persuading or endeavouring to persuade anyone not to enter the employer’s place of business, operations, or employment, or to deal in or handle the products of the employer, or to otherwise do business with the employer.

2. The right to picket applies to peaceful, informational picketing, and does not extend to picketing that is intimidating or violent, or obstructs access to or exit from the employer’s premises. Do not use rude or threatening language or gestures to, or physically touch any person who may decide to cross the picket line.

3. No picketers will speak to the media or to management unless instructed to by the picket captain or local union.

4. The line must be kept moving at all times.

5. There is a zero-tolerance for the consumption of alcohol or any controlled substance on the picket line. Anyone showing up under the influence will be sent home and not credited with hours for picketing that shift.

6. Everyone on the picket line must carry or wear a sign approved by the Union.

7. Public parking lots must not be blocked. If there is an incident involving a motor vehicle(s), get the licence number(s) and give details to the picket captain to report the incident.

8. Picketers must report for all scheduled shifts. This is just like being scheduled for work – you must show up.

9. Have respect for all, whether they support the strike or not.

10. No UFCW Canada member is to cross the picket line at any time. Crossing will result in charges under the union constitution, resulting in legally-enforceable fines and other penalties that could include loss of employment.

In order to qualify for and receive picket pay, active members must:
1. Complete and submit to the local union the Member Picket Registration Form prior to the commencement of the strike or lockout.
2. Personally sign the Picket Schedule at the conclusion of each assigned picket shift.
3. Serve a minimum number of hours per week or other assigned time period, as prescribed by the local union. Members serving on strike committees and other authorized projects will qualify for picket pay also based on minimum time requirement.

When does picket pay start? 
The UFCW International Constitution stipulates in Article 23 F(3) the financial disbursement rules:
The financial aid allowed shall not be payable for the first seven days of the strike or lockout and shall apply only to those members who have been on strike or locked out for fourteen days in succession. 
There is no picket pay for the first seven days of a strike or lockout.

Why is a strong strike mandate important?
Voting YES on a strike vote signals to Loblaw that we are strong and united. A strong YES vote will put pressure on the Company to get back to the bargaining table and to negotiate a fair deal. The stronger the strike mandate, the less likely a dispute will occur. A strong strike mandate puts the Union in the best possible position to secure a good deal without needing to call a strike.

What is a “strike mandate”?
A strike mandate means the members authorize a strike if the employer refuses to agree to a fair collective agreement. To secure a strike mandate, the UFCW Constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote of members voting YES on a strike vote.

Will we be able to vote again on another Memorandum of Settlement after the strike vote?
There is no guarantee that the Company will re-offer the same memorandum to vote on. Therefore, it is important for you to vote and show the Company that we are serious about our demands and bring them back to the table.

I didn’t vote, what happens to me?
If you do not vote, your vote is not counted.

What happened to the rejected Memorandum of Settlement?
Since the offer has been rejected. The terms of the offer do not have to be maintained.

If we vote NO to strike, can we still accept the last offer?
No, the offer has been rejected and the Company is not obligated to re-offer the same terms of settlement. If you vote NO, there is no incentive for the Company to do anything.

What is a strike?
A strike is when employees stop working to pressure the Company to agree to their demands in collective bargaining.

When would a strike be held?
With a strong strike mandate, there is pressure for the Company to return to the table. If your employer does not return to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair deal, your Union will give 72-hour notice of strike. Before this happens, you will be advised of the progress and the Union’s intent to issue notice.

Who is eligible for picket pay?
Members who are actively employed and working for the Employer prior to the strike/lockout.

How much is strike pay?
Strike pay is known as picket pay. To be eligible for picket pay, you must picket on the strike line. Picket pay is not a wage, so it is not taxable.
Full-time employees will receive picket pay of up to $400/week, subject to picketing hours and a minimum requirement of 24 picketing hours.
Part-time employees will receive picket pay of up to $325/week, subject to picketing hours and a minimum requirement of 20 picketing hours.
Loblaw Distribution Centre members working at DC 1957 are not part of the NDF (National Defence Fund), therefore their picket pay is as follows:
Full-time employees will receive picket pay of up to $300/week, subject to picketing hours and a minimum requirement of 24 picketing hours.
Part time employees will receive picket pay of up to $275/week, subject to picketing hours and a minimum requirement of 20 picketing hours.
“There is no picket pay for the first week of a strike or lockout” – International Constitution Article 23 F(3)

When does picket pay commence?

The financial aid allowed shall not be payable for the first seven days of the strike or lockout and shall apply only to those members who have been on strike or locked out for fourteen days in succession.

Can the Employer force a vote on the membership?
Yes, under the current Labour Relations Code, the employer can ask the Labour Relations Board to allow the employees to vote on the last proposal for a collective agreement.  This is a one-time ability.

Picket pay will not cover my bills.  What do I do?
If you picket, you will be eligible to receive TAX FREE picket pay.  We also encourage members to find OTHER ADDITIONAL EMPLOYMENT during a strike to help make up any shortfalls you may have. It is also important to reach out to creditors now to see what kind of relief they may be able to provide should you be involved in a labour dispute. This is something you can do now to ensure you aren’t surprised later. Creditors want you to be able to pay them back, and they can be surprisingly understanding, because strikes do happen.

How do I prepare for a strike?
UFCW Canada has prepared a guide for strike preparation.  Here are some highlights:
1.       Prepare financially.
          -Do not make major purchases if they can be avoided
2.       Medical coverage.
          – If you or a family member needs life-sustaining medication or treatment, talk to your family doctor prior to the strike or lockout and see if
          it is possible to increase the prescription size or move treatment up while you are still covered.
3.       Stock up to cut costs.
4.       Family matters.
          -If you have children in child care, contact your childcare provider ahead of time and advise them of the impending strike or lockout. Inquire about   
          making arrangements to reduce payments, or make up payments after the strike, or suspend service and make alternative arrangements with friends,
          relatives, or co-workers.

Will I have health benefits coverage in the event of a strike?
It will very likely the Company will stop paying the premiums for the Manulife benefits and benefit coverage will cease on the commencement of a strike. The Union Benefit Trust Fund benefits (dental, prescription drug, optical, RMT) will continue up to 3 months from the last day worked.

How will a picket line work at a store that is within a mall?
The Labour Relations Code basically says picketing should only affect the business whose employees are lawfully on strike. This does not necessarily mean you can’t picket inside a mall, but it does mean the picketing should be restricted in such a way that it does not block access or otherwise affect the other businesses. For example, the Board has allowed picketing of an Extra Foods in a mall in Prince Rupert to take place in front of the grocery store entrance which was inside the entrance doors to the Mall, where the picketing was not at the entrance doors to the mall itself.

Could the Company bring workers from outside the province or from other divisions to work in the store/warehouse during a strike?
The Labour Relations Code does not allow an employer to use “replacement workers” during a strike to perform the work of an (1) employee in the bargaining unit that is on strike, or (2) the work ordinarily done by a person (like an excluded manager) who is doing the work of a person who is on strike. The Code specifies that the type of replacement workers that are not allowed includes persons who ordinarily work at another one of an employer’s places of operations.  Thus, the employer cannot lawfully use management from outside the province, nor can they use employees from different, non-union shops, to perform the work of striking employees.  

Has the Company contacted the Union?
No, the Company has not responded to our invitation to return to the table.  Likely they are waiting to see the results of the strike mandate and would respond accordingly.

Can probationary members be asked to picket? And be eligible for picket pay?
Yes, all dues-paying active members at the affected locations are eligible to picket and receive picket pay.

Can a member cross the picket line and work in the store during the strike?
What happens to the member that does cross and continue to work during the strike?
What steps does the Union take to stop/prevent this from happening and what steps does the union take against the member?

Individuals who make a conscious choice to betray and undermine workers or co-workers – and their own standard of living – by trying to defeat a strike by crossing union picket lines are commonly referred to as Scabs. Shamefully, scabs are still permitted in most jurisdictions in Canada.
Scabs who are members of the union can be charged under the terms of the union’s constitution and, if convicted, can lose their membership in the union, and even their jobs in some instances.

Will a store remain open during a strike?
Do you really think that the store can run with just Supervisors?  Likely, with the disruption from the Distribution Centres and supply chain limitations, the store would not be able to be supplied.

We have received a strong strike vote.  Why aren’t we issuing strike notice to the Company?
A strong strike vote mandate is aimed at getting the Company back to the table to improve their offer to you.  After a successful strike vote, Loblaw is given the chance to return to the bargaining table and reconsider their final offer.  An offer for Union members to either accept or reject and commence strike action.  We must still prepare for the worst.  An actual strike is a real possibility and will be a substantial undertaking with risks that are not taken lightly.

I just saw the news release that the Retail Committee is returning to the bargaining table.  What happens to the Distribution Centres?
They will not commit to changing their last presented offer and will await the Retail discussions before taking any further action.

If I am full-time and I have already booked my vacation.  Will I get paid for my vacation?  
Upon serving the Company 72 hours strike notice, when a strike is called the provisions in the collective agreement are suspended and all pay ceases, for those on vacation as well as those not on vacation.

If I am on paid sick leave, what happens to my pay?
Sick leave payments are provided by the Insurance Carrier.  If you are currently receiving benefits pay and still medically qualify for paid sick leave as defined under the benefit plan, you would continue to receive paid benefits.  If a member is already in receipt of Maternity or Sick Benefits at the time of the job action through EI they are entitled to continue to receive payments.

Am I eligible to apply for Maternity/Paternity Leave while I am on strike?
Please remember that these are general guidelines: each EI claim is assessed on an individual basis, which unfortunately means that there are no absolute answers.  
In general, a member who commences their leave before a strike/lockout commences remains eligible for maternity benefits during the strike/lockout.  Since the benefit calculation is based on earnings, a member applying for benefits to commence after a strike has started, may have their eligible amounts affected.

If you need additional information, please contact your Union Representative to ask your questions.

Additional information on being prepared for a strike or lock out is available here.