LCBO asking for Health and Safety Concessions? Really?
Almost a year ago, Canadians were wondering whether Canada Post would go on strike, and they almost did. Now, in the spring of 2017, Ontarians face a potential work stoppage by another major government institution, the LCBO. The recently reported strike vote, which will occur on April 24 and 25, was not accompanied by any significant details about the outstanding issues upon which the parties cannot agree. The parties have requested the assistance of a conciliator, a requirement in Ontario before a strike can occur, so it is unlikely that OPSEU’s strike vote is merely gamesmanship.
According to Canadian Labour Reporter, OPSEU is claiming that the LCBO is demanding concessions on things like job security, scheduling, and health and safety. The LCBO has not commented on any of the issues still on the table. While it is difficult to determine whether a proposal truly constitutes a concession without reading the proposal and the related collective agreement language, I can understand how an employer’s proposals which impact job security and scheduling could be seen as such if the proposals would entitle employees to less that the current agreement provides. I struggle, however, to understand how a proposal could result in concessions regarding health and safety given the stringent regulations employers must follow in accordance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).
Employers and unions can contract above and beyond what is required by legislation, but cannot agree to terms which afford less than what the relevant legislation sets out. Health and safety language in collective agreements usually mirrors or defers to the Act. Unless OPSEU and the LCBO have previously agreed to terms which are above and beyond the requirements of the OHSA, I would be surprised if OPSEU’s claim that the LCBO is asking them to make concessions on health and safety would stand up to a review of the applicable proposals and applicable collective agreement language.
In any event, I'm sure that with the warm weather and backyard BBQs approaching, many Ontarians are hopeful that the parties will settle their differences expeditiously!