Strike Action: Frequently Asked Questions
The UOITFA will be updating this page frequently as more information becomes available.
Strike signs will be available on Wednesday February 9th from 8am to 4pm at the UOITFA office in the U portable in the Founders 2 parking lot. Members can download their own strike signs to print at this link.
What does it mean to go on strike?
If the university administration will not offer our Membership a fair deal, we must make them uncomfortable enough to reconsider. This means the Membership must impede the function of the university, as much as it is safe and ethical to do so, including withdrawing our labour. This includes teaching, service to the university, regular job duties (such as paperwork and supervision of students and employees), as much peripheral research activity as possible, and any other job duty that may fall under “Other” in our workloads. It is key to withdraw as much of our labour as possible from the university to motivate the administration to come to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair deal.
The UOITFA does understand that parts of our work cannot wait for a strike. If a task associated with your work or research is ethically required (for example, research initiatives that involve time-sensitive requirements, support to a vulnerable community, lab maintenance, animal care, etc.) or is time sensitive and does not exert pressure on the University (for example, an experiment or paper deadline required to keep your personal research project viable), please use your best judgement to determine whether you should proceed with your work.
Should I make my teaching materials inaccessible during a strike?
Allowing students to continue in their courses as if nothing is happening undermines the strike and fails to put pressure on the university administration to come to the table and negotiate a fair deal. The UOITFA will be sending out separate instructions closer to the strike deadline on how to remove/hide/unpublish your teaching materials for classes or materials that have not yet been taught or are scheduled for after the strike deadline in case our members need support on how to do this.
NOTE: Courses will be added back to canvas upon the end of a strike. We’re not sure what plans the Ontario Tech Administration would make in relation to classes in the event of the strike, but we will do everything we can to keep students informed. Faculty at the University would do everything they can to support students and if Ontario Tech allows, Faculty will ensure students are able to complete their courses and gain all of their credits for the year even if there is a strike.
Since I am working remotely, can I still continue with classes?
Whether on or off campus, whether in-person or electronically, members may not engage in teaching/research/service/other during a lockout or strike. You might frame this as an opportunity for your students to work ahead independently in the course.
Would we have any access to campus during a strike?
Normally no. But access may be issued to members who require access to the University facilities to prevent irreparable damage to their research and/or to provide proper care to all live research plants/animals.
Requests for access to research spaces on campus may have to go through the University but you should have any issues gaining access to your research space, please let us know and we can follow up with the University to represent you to the University. Once we have received more information about this process from the University, we will share that with our members.
As per Ontario Tech:
“For further clarity, employees in the bargaining unit will be prohibited from entering the laboratories in which they usually work. Having said the foregoing, employees in the bargaining unit who are involved in sensitive research projects may seek prior approval to access campus and specifically the laboratories in which they usually work by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org explaining why such access is necessary. The AVP Planning and Strategic Analysis will consider the request and make a decision respecting access to campus. The decision by the university will be shared with the requesting employee following review of the request.”
What about my office/lab?
Other than under specific and special circumstances, you would not have access to your office and/or lab during a job action. Move copies of crucial working documents, files, print, and other portable material off-campus. Alert colleagues from other universities or agencies of the labour situation and inform them of alternative contact information.
What about my research funds – would I still have access to these?
It is unlikely that any expenses incurred during a strike would be reimbursed; similarly, reimbursements submitted before the strike likely would not be paid until we are back to work.
As per Ontario Tech:
“The Employer will not reimburse any expenses incurred by Employees in the bargaining unit during the duration of a strike.”
What if my research would be significantly harmed if I stopped doing it during the strike?
This is your university. We are on strike to put pressure on the administration to come to a fair settlement. That pressure comes from withdrawing from your teaching and service duties. The UOITFA is not on strike against its members. As a scholar, it’s likely you’ll want to continue pursuing your research, and sometimes research cannot take a hiatus. Living organisms need to be cared for, crucial relationships need to be attended to, obligations with research partners or participants need to be met.
Access may be issued to members who require access to the University facilities in order to prevent irreparable damage to their research and/or to provide proper care to all live research plants/animals.
As well, Ontario Tech will continue to satisfy all of its obligations under the Tri-Council funding agreements (SSHRC, NSERC and CIHR).
Would we still be able to use our email and voice mail during the strike?
It is possible that the Employer may cut off access to one or the other or both. We strongly advise you to create an alternate email account if you haven’t already done so and to provide it to the Association immediately. Please send your alternative email address to email@example.com .
Can the Employer withhold my pay if a strike or lockout begins before the end of the normal pay period?
Employees must be paid on their normal payday for work up to and including the day before the strike or lockout begins.
What about benefits – would we still be covered?
The FA would make every effort to ensure that current coverage would continue under the present terms and will cover the cost of members’ benefits during a strike.
What about contributions to the pension plan?
We expect the Employer to count the period of the strike as continuous, uninterrupted service for pension purposes (indeed for all purposes); however, this would have to be negotiated in a Back-to-Work Protocol.
Do I have access to mental health supports during this very stressful time?
A list of current benefits that employees have for mental health can be found here: (https://hr.ontariotechu.ca/healthy-workplace/Wellness_Resources/index.php) and a copy of your current benefits package with Sunlife can be found here: (https://shared.ontariotechu.ca/shared/department/hr/documents/20574-a1-ebook.pdf).
Resources relating to counselling help can be found here (https://hr.ontariotechu.ca/healthy-workplace/Wellness_Resources/shepell-fgi-resources.php) via the Employee Family Assistance Program (EFAP) here (https://hr.ontariotechu.ca/healthy-workplace/Wellness_Resources/shepell-fgi-resources.php) which is provided by Morneau Shapell (Formerly SGI).
If you are in crisis, Morneau Shapell notes that you can use the confidential Member Assistance Program (MAP) which is available and accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Members can contact their MAP at 1.844.578.4040 or by visiting workhealthlife.com. Instructions on how to use the EFAP resources are here (https://hr.ontariotechu.ca/healthy-workplace/Employee_Assistance_Program/index.php.
Why do we “picket” or complete strike duties?
Picket lines are primarily a means to communicate our grievances and to seek support for the strike. Picket lines are a way to build solidarity within the bargaining unit and with other supporters. The UOITFA will be running both in-person picket lines at the University as well as virtual pickets that are carried out in online environments.
Do we get paid for completing strike benefits?
To be eligible for strike benefits, all Members will need to contribute to job action (4 hours each day for physical picketing or 4 hours each day for virtual picketing, from Monday through Friday) to receive strike benefits which are tax-free. Strike benefits or picket pay is 140 dollars for each 4-hour shift up to a total of 5 shifts per week.
1. IN-PERSON PICKETING: Members who have signed up for in-person picketing are expected to engage each weekday in a 4 hour in-person picket at the North Campus in Oshawa.
2. ONLINE PICKETING: For Members who are not located in Oshawa or who need accommodations for any reason, can engage each weekday in virtual activities related to the issues at hand (virtual picketing described below). Participation each day will involve a 4-hour, virtual “picket shift” meeting where online strike duties will be completed in break-out rooms. You will be encouraged to share your activities with others, and work toward developing effective strategies for getting our position heard and understood which will be an ongoing discussion in our online picket shift meetings.
What might virtual picketing involve?
1. Contacting members to update them on mobilization efforts and bargaining by both phone and email.
2. Sending e-mail messages to our University President, members of the Ontario Tech University Board of Governors members of Ontario’s legislature, and other groups.
3. Creation of content and posting that content on social media sites (Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram etc.)
4. Commenting on, critiquing, or sharing posts on either social or mass media sites.
5. Finding, tracking, and forwarding news stories with a favourable perspective to trigger Google analytics to share those stories with others.
6. Drafting new stories, press releases, op-eds and other content about the UOITFA and our bargaining issues.
7. Bargaining related research including researching other collective agreements, costing, or other research initiatives to support the bargaining team.
8. Data entry and clerical work
9. Other creative web-based activities we have not conceived of yet.
What is a picket line?
The picket line is the visible sign and symbol of union solidarity. It is also the sign that an employment relationship has been suspended, either by lockout or strike, and that it is not business as usual in the workplace.
Picketers may not and must not employ physical violence, but they may distribute information about the dispute and appeal for support from the public and from those who do business with the employer, such as suppliers, delivery people, letter carriers, etc.
What should I bring to the UOITFA’s physical picket line?
- Warm, water-proof clothing, including gloves
- Warm, comfortable boots – do not underestimate this!
- Water bottle that won’t freeze
- Nothing that can be construed as a weapon
- Normal things like wallet and cellphone
- Above all, bring your resolve for a fair deal!
What about salaries for members on paid leave?
Members on short-term or long-term disability leave as well as those on pregnancy and/or parental leave as of January 30, 2022, will be deemed not to be on strike and should continue to receive pay and benefits from Ontario Tech.
As per Ontario Tech:
“Employees in the bargaining unit on short-term or long-term disability leave as well as those on pregnancy and/or parental leave as of January 30, 2022, will be deemed not to be on strike and will continue receiving salary, benefits and pension contributions as identified in the current Collective Agreement, provided they are not engaged in activities or conduct that are inconsistent with their leaves.”
Members on other kinds of approved leave will be deemed to be on strike and must complete strike duties. If you would like further clarification, please reach out to the UOITFA office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What if I can’t pay my rent/mortgage?
Should we have to proceed to a strike, and you anticipate financial difficulties, we recommend that you contact your financial institution to decide for a full or partial suspension of mortgage payments. A letter of support would be available from the Association to take with you. If you require such a letter, please contact email@example.com.
Some of my students live in residence and are worried about picket lines.
Many people, including students who live in residence, have legitimate reasons to be on campus and will not be impeded by picketers.
Can there be discipline or reprisals for my participation in a strike?
You cannot be disciplined for participating in a legal strike.
What if I am sick, or I have COVID and have been told to stay away from campus for a period, at the time of the strike?
If you are sick, please stay home and take care of yourself. If you are feeling well enough, you can participate in virtual picketing duties, but you do not have to. If you are sick and do not feel well enough to picket, please let the UOITFA office know via email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line UOITFA SICK NOTICE and please include your name and date of the days you will be missing because of illness. We will email you directly to determine alternate duties that you can complete when you are no longer sick.