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Strike/lockout Q&A

Strike/lockout Q&A

We the North
We the North
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Table of Contents

Questions and answers about being on strike or locked out, for OPSEU members at the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation

Information for OPSEU members at the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation

Revised and expanded June 7, 2016

Part One: strike/lockout information

General Strike/Lockout

Q1. Are we going on strike?

Your OPSEU bargaining team is bargaining for a collective agreement, not a work stoppage. Although a strike deadline has been set, we will only go on strike as a last resort.

Q2. When could a strike or lockout happen?

A strike deadline has been set for June 17, 2016 at 12:01 a.m.

Q3. Can bargaining continue before the strike deadline?

Yes. We have two more days of bargaining scheduled on June 15 and 16. In most cases, both parties feel strongly motivated to bargain seriously when the clock is ticking towards a strike deadline.

Q4. If there is a strike, how will I know when it starts?

Your bargaining team will be communicating with stewards and members throughout the bargaining process via email and the OPSEU website. OPSEU locals have been asked to set up their own phone and email trees to pass on key information to members.

Q5. Who will participate in a strike or lockout?

If a strike or lockout happens, all bargaining unit employees, permanent or temporary, including students, are on strike.

Q6. If I’m an acting manager, will I participate in a strike or lockout?

In the event of a strike or lockout, acting managers will return to the bargaining unit and will participate in the same way as all members of the bargaining unit.

Strike Pay & Duties

Q7. Will I receive strike pay?

In the event of a strike or lockout, strike pay is provided to members (including students) who complete strike-related duties assigned by their Local Strike Committee. You will receive strike pay if:

  • you’ve signed your OPSEU union card and filled out your Member Personal Information Form (Form B) so that strike pay can be processed and deposited to your personal bank or credit union account.
  • you perform strike duties (e.g. picket duty) for 20 hours per week; and
  • the strike or lockout lasts more than one day. (In a strike lasting more than one day, you will receive strike pay after the first week of picket duty from the first day you go out.)

Q8. How much is strike pay?

Under OPSEU policy, strike pay is provided to members who complete strike-related duties assigned by their Local Strike Committee. Only signed-up members are eligible to receive strike pay. Strike pay is not taxable.

Delegates at the 2016 OPSEU Convention voted for a substantial increase in strike pay.

During weeks one to three, each member is entitled to strike pay of $40 per day (or $200 per week). Each dependant is entitled to $10 per day (or $50 per week).

During the fourth week, strike pay increases and each member is entitled to $60 per day (or $300 per week). Dependant pay remains the same at $50 per week.

A dependant is defined as:

  • a non-income-earning spouse (excluding a spouse on strike);
  • a child under 18 (or under 26 if attending school full-time) OR a dependant child as defined by the collective agreement or benefit plan;
  • a disabled family member; or
  • an elderly family member who normally receives financial support from the striking member.

If both spouses are on strike, both may claim the dependants.

Q9. How will I receive my strike pay?

The Local Finance Sub-Committee of your Local Strike Committee submits records of strike duties weekly to the Accounting Department at OPSEU Head Office. Members who have completed a Form B will then receive their strike pay from Accounting by direct deposit. Please make sure that OPSEU has your non-employer e-mail address to receive confirmations.

Q10. What is a “Form B” and why do I need to fill it out?

OPSEU pays strike pay via direct deposit to members’ personal bank or credit union accounts. In order to do this, OPSEU Accounting needs to collect your account information on Form B, the Member Personal Information Form.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Form B is a fillable electronic form in two parts. Start by filling out the top part of the form to provide your name, contact information, and number of dependants.
  2. Have your steward or a member of your Local Executive Committee sign the form.
  3. Fill out the Direct Deposit Agreement section of the form and include the required banking information.
  4. Send the completed form, with your banking information, to OPSEU Accounting. There are four ways to do this:
    • scan the form and a void cheque and email it to claims@opseu.org; or
    • mail the form and a void cheque to the OPSEU Accounting Department, 100 Lesmill Road, Toronto, Ontario M3B 3P8; or
    • drop off the form and a void cheque at your nearest OPSEU Regional Office; or
    • ask your unit steward or local president to forward your form and your void cheque to OPSEU Accounting for you.

Q11. What are strike duties?

These are duties assigned by your Local Strike Committee that will help put maximum pressure on the employer to ensure the shortest possible strike and a new contract as soon as possible. Strike duties may include picketing, running strike headquarters, handling strike logistics, lobbying politicians, talking to reporters, or any other duties the Local Strike Committee decides.

Remember, you should use your personal email to communicate about strike preparations, not the employer’s email.

Q12. How much time must I spend on strike duties to qualify for strike pay?

You must perform a minimum of four hours of strike duty per day or a minimum of 20 hours per week in order to be eligible for strike pay. Obviously, each local will want every member to put in as much time as possible to support the strike.

Q13. What about day care costs?

There are no provisions for day care costs while on strike. You must work with your local committees to make suitable arrangements or accommodations so that you can fulfill your strike responsibilities.

Q14. Can I arrange to picket at a location that is closer to my home?

Yes, you can arrange to picket at a location that is not your local. You will need to fill out Form J (Picketing/Accommodation Information), which can be found in the Strike Manual. This form must be submitted to your OPSEU Regional Office or Staff Representative. Once this is done, the Strike Finance Chair can record your hours on the Member Portal.

Q15. What if I am on an accommodation?

All members of a striking bargaining unit have the right to participate fully in the strike. However, some members may not be able to perform all strike duties. In such cases, the Strike Committee has a legal and moral obligation to modify the member’s strike duties to enable him or her to earn strike pay. This is called accommodation.

Members have a duty to inform their Strike Committee if they require an accommodation and to cooperate in finding solutions.

Those requiring accommodation to perform modified strike picket duties must fill out Form J (Picketing/Accommodation Information), a copy of which is in the Strike Manual. Details of a member’s needs are confidential.

A member of the Strike Duties Subcommittee shall be assigned to deal with requests for accommodation, which must be provided in a manner that respects the dignity of the person.

Q16. What happens if I have an Alternate Work Arrangement (AWA), e.g., working from home?

Having an AWA does not mean you are not on strike. If a strike begins, report to your Local Strike Committee to find out how you can perform strike duties and receive strike pay.

Q17. What happens if I am scheduled to attend the Institute of Municipal Assessors’ conference in Niagara Falls but am on strike or locked out when the conference happens June 26-28?

The conference is a work assignment. If you are on strike or locked out, do not attend the conference – unless your local plans to picket it.

Q18. If I have financial commitments that I must fulfill, e.g. mortgage payments, loans, etc., what happens to them during the strike/lockout?

You will still be responsible for paying your bills, but you can often negotiate a hold on payment in the short term in the event of a strike.

Tips for budgeting during a strike or lockout:

  • Mortgages/rent: Talk to your bank, credit union, or landlord and negotiate a plan for the duration before the next payment is due.
  • Taxes: Ask if an accommodation can be arranged to defer property taxes.
  • Utilities: Request to spread your payments.
  • Loans: If your lender won’t allow a deferral, consider re-financing to reduce the payments.
  • Credit cards: Charging purchases while on strike is not recommended. Pay the minimum charge or use a line of credit with a lower interest rate.
  • Insurance: Investigate ways to spread out the premiums.
  • Child support: Contact your ex-spouse and try to work something out.

Q19. What is the Hardship Relief Committee?

This is a sub-committee of the Local Strike Committee which assists and provides advice to members who may require additional help to get through the strike.

The Hardship Relief Committee is funded by the donations it is able to collect – it is not funded by OPSEU centrally. The Committee may make recommendations to the Local Strike Committee that some members receive special assistance who are experiencing particular hardship. Committee members may also communicate with local financial institutions about the strike and, where necessary, intercede with those financial institutions to help striking members meet their credit obligations until the strike is over.

Please note that the normal hardships of being on strike do not qualify a member for hardship relief. To qualify, a member must first exhaust all other reasonable options.

All members are strongly encouraged to continue to plan their personal finances. Contact your bank, credit union, your landlord, your daycare provider, etc., to discuss payment options. The earlier you make a plan, the better prepared you will be.

Q20.  How can I help my local during the strike?

There are many duties involved in running a successful strike. Consider volunteering for strike committees in the areas of communications, finance, or logistics. Help make signs, help run the phone tree, and spread the word about the issues to your neighbours, faith group members, and your MPP. Email or phone Antoni Wisniowski, President and Chief Administrative Officer of MPAC, and tell him to get back to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair contract! His email address is Antoni.Wisniowski@mpac.ca.

Part Two: Pension and benefit information

Benefits

Q21. Do I still receive insured benefits if I end up on strike or locked out?

Under OPSEU policy, the union attempts to negotiate with the employer (prior to any work stoppage) to continue insured benefits if there is a strike or lockout. Our bargaining team has had discussions with the employer about this. The employer has assured us that benefits will be continued and OPSEU will reimburse the employer for all costs.

Q22. Apart from insured benefits, what employer-provided benefits, such as vacation, bereavement leave, maternity leave top-up, short-term sick pay, etc., would continue during a strike or lockout?

No directly employer-provided benefits that depend on the collective agreement will be paid if you are on strike or locked out.

Q23. Do I have to return cell phones, laptops and other employer-issued equipment if I end up on strike or locked out?

The employer is not requiring members to return their equipment. However, this equipment will be disconnected from the server and members will not be able to use it if a strike or lockout happens. Remember that your personal email should be used to communicate about strike preparations or related matters, not the employer’s equipment or email.

Vacation

Q24. What happens if I am on vacation when a strike or lockout starts? Will I get paid?

No. You are considered to be on strike or locked out once a labour dispute starts. The employer is not obliged to give you vacation pay.

Q25. If my pre-approved vacation falls during a strike or lockout, will I get vacation pay?

No. There is no collective agreement in effect. The employer does not have to pay you vacation pay. You keep your vacation credits and can take approved vacation later.

Sick Leave

Q26. Can I get short-term sick leave with pay when I’m on strike or locked out?

No, because the collective agreement does not apply.

Q27. What happens if I am on short-term sick leave when a strike or lockout starts?

The employer will stop short-term sick leave benefits, but you can apply for Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits. Applications can be made directly by attending a Service Canada office. You may also check the Service Canada website www.servicecanada.gc.ca. Be sure to keep copies of forms and medical certificates related to your sick leave that you gave to your employer and Service Canada. You are responsible for any medical documentation completion fees if charged by your doctor.

Q28. Am I eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits during a strike or lockout?

Maybe, if you can show that your leave was anticipated and arrangements for it had begun before a strike or lockout started. Being on short-term sick leave before a strike or lockout may show that your leave was anticipated. Inform the employer in writing of the dates of any scheduled surgery and anticipated recovery periods. Be sure to keep a copy for yourself at home.

However, be sure to check with Service Canada to determine whether your circumstances meet their entitlement for sickness benefits.

Q29. To apply for EI sickness benefits I need my Record of Employment (ROE) from my employer. During a strike or lockout can I get my ROE?

Your employer should give you your ROE. If you can’t get it, or there is a delay, don’t wait for your ROE. Apply as soon as possible – a temporary claim can be set up for you. Bring proof that you were working, such as pay stubs, to the EI office when you apply for benefits. If you informed your employer of any scheduled surgery or provided medical certificates for your sick leave then take copies with you to the EI office.

Q30. EI has a two-week waiting period at the beginning of every claim. Will I have to wait the two-weeks if I was on short-term sick leave before a strike or lockout?

If you were on short term-sick leave before a strike or lockout, EI may waive the two-week waiting period. However, if your sick leave did not begin before the strike or lockout, and if you are approved for EI (because the leave was anticipated) then it is unlikely the two week waiting period will be waived. Ask Service Canada for clarification.

Q31. Can I participate in the strike or lockout while I am receiving EI sickness benefits or in the two-week waiting period?

You could lose your EI sickness benefits if your involvement in the labour dispute leads EI to think you are well enough to return to work.

Q32. Will the amount of my EI sickness benefits be affected by a strike or lockout?

Possibly. The amount you receive is based on your best 14-22 weeks of earnings in the prior 52 weeks. The number of weeks used (14-22) is based on the rate of unemployment in your region. This is determined by EI. If you only worked 14-22 weeks in the past year then the strike could affect the amount you receive from EI; but if you worked for more than 22 weeks in the last year it is unlikely to have any effect on the amount you receive.

Strike pay is not considered to be earnings for EI purposes so it will not be deducted from your EI benefit.

Q33. Am I eligible for EI sickness benefits if I was on modified work (part-time or full-time) before the strike or lockout began?

No.

Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP)

Q34. Does my OHIP coverage stop as a result of a strike or lockout?

No. OHIP is based on living in Ontario, not on being at work. If you had OHIP coverage before a strike or lockout and you keep living in Ontario, your OHIP coverage continues.

OMERS Pension Plan

Q35. What happens to my pension during a strike or lockout?

Neither you nor the employer pays into the pension plan during a strike or lockout. However, your membership in the plan continues and you don’t lose any entitlement you had earned up to the date the strike/lockout began.

Q36. Will I be able to buy back the pension credits I lose during a strike or lockout?

Yes. OMERS will send each eligible member the cost, payment options and timelines for buying back lost pension credit. OMERS will need to have your current home address in order to send this information.

Q37. Will a strike or lockout affect my early retirement dates?

Your early retirement date may be delayed if you don’t buy back the pension credits you lost during a strike or lockout. Consult with OMERS to see the exact impact the strike has on your earliest retirement date.

Q38. Can I make pension contributions if I am on pregnancy, parental or adoption leave? What if I’m getting WSIB benefits during a strike or lockout? Does the employer match my contributions?

Yes, you may elect to make pension contributions during pregnancy, parental or adoption leave. If you are on WSIB benefits, you can pay into the pension plan for one year after the date of your injury. The employer must match your contributions.

Q39. Can I retire during a strike or lockout?

Yes, but you have to make the arrangements directly with OMERS. You can contact them at: One University Avenue, Suite 800, Toronto, Ontario M5J 2P1. Telephone 416-369-2444 or call toll-free at 1-800-387-0813. OMERS can also be reached on its website at myomers.com.

Please note that the employer must confirm the date you retire and therefore the payment of your pension may be delayed if the employer didn’t notify OMERS prior to the strike that you were retiring.

Q40. During a strike or lockout, can I apply to buy back pension credits for service prior to the strike, so as to be within time limits?

Yes. Contact OMERS directly to arrange a buyback.

Q41. Will a strike or lockout have an impact on my best 60 consecutive months’ salary for pension calculations?

No. These calculations are based on your salary rate, whether or not you are at work. Pay lost during a strike or lockout will not affect it.

Q42. How would a strike or lockout affect me if I am currently buying back eligible pension service?

If your buyback is being paid by payroll deduction, it will stop during a strike or lockout. You will need to have the deductions re-calculated after a strike or lockout to make up any missed payments so that you complete the buy-back within the time limits. Once the strike or lockout concludes, contact OMERS to have the recalculation completed.

Q43. If I die during a strike or lockout, will my survivors get their benefits under the pension plan?

Yes.

Employment Insurance (EI)

Q44. Can I get regular EI if I’m not working because of a strike or lockout?

No. Generally, if you’re unable to work because of a strike or lockout you cannot get regular EI benefits. However, you may be eligible for EI maternity, parental (includes adoption), sickness or authorized training benefits.

Pregnancy/Parental/Adoption Leave

Q45. What happens if I’m on maternity, parental or adoption leave and a strike or lockout starts? Will my EI benefits continue?

Yes, your EI benefits will continue for the duration of your leave.

Q46. Will I receive EI maternity, parental or adoption leave benefits if my leave starts during a strike or lockout?

Yes, if you can show you were arranging the leave before the strike or lockout. Write to the employer, stating your intent. Be sure to keep a copy for yourself at home.

Q47. If I participate in the strike or lockout prior to the start of my prearranged maternity, parental or adoption leave, will I still receive my EI benefits?

Yes, if you can show you were arranging the leave before the strike or lockout. Write to the employer, stating your intent. Be sure to keep a copy for yourself at home.

Q48. Can I participate in a strike or lockout while I am on maternity, parental or adoption leave and still receive my EI benefits?

Yes. However, keep in mind that EI pays these benefits on the assumption that you need the time off to care for your child. Strike pay is not considered to be earnings for EI purposes so it will not be deducted from your EI benefit.

Q49. Will the amount of my EI benefits be affected by a strike or lockout?

Possibly. The amount you receive is based on your best 14-22 weeks of earnings in the prior 52 weeks. The number of weeks used (14-22) is based on the rate of unemployment in your region. This is determined by EI. If you only worked 14-22 weeks in the past year then the strike could affect the amount you receive from EI; but if you worked for more than 22 weeks in the last year it is unlikely to have any effect on the amount you receive.

Q50. To apply for EI maternity, parental or adoption leave benefits I need my Record of Employment (ROE) from the employer. If my leave starts during a strike or lockout can I get my ROE?

Your employer should give you your ROE. If you can’t get it, or there is a delay, bring proof that you were working, such as pay stubs, to the EI office when you apply for benefits. Apply as soon as you can. Don’t wait for your ROE. A temporary claim can be set up for you.

Q51. Under the collective agreement, the employer tops up my wages to 93 per cent of my pay for the first two weeks of my maternity, parental or adoption leave. Will I get this during a strike or lockout?

No. The employer does not have to pay this for any part of the two-week period that falls during a strike or lockout.

Q52. Under the collective agreement, the employer tops up my EI maternity, parental or adoption leave benefits to 93 per cent of my pay. If I am on leave and getting EI benefits before a strike or lockout, or go on leave during a strike or lockout, will I get the top-up from the employer?

During a strike or lockout you will not receive the top-up.

Q53. Would the top-up start up again after a strike or lockout?

Yes, as long as you are still getting EI maternity or parental (including adoption) benefits and the top-up provision still exists in the new collective agreement.

Q54. Do I have benefit coverage if I am on maternity, parental or adoption leave during a strike or lockout?

Based on our discussions with the employer about benefits, your benefits should be continued in the event of a strike or lockout and OPSEU will reimburse the employer for all costs.

Q55. What happens if my maternity, parental or adoption leave ends and I’m ready to return to work while a strike or lockout is still on?

You are considered on strike or locked out and you should report for strike duties.

Q56. The collective agreement says I must serve 13 weeks to get leave without pay for maternity, parental or adoption leave. Will a strike or lockout interrupt my eligibility for these leaves?

A strike or lockout does not interrupt the qualifying period for these leaves. To be eligible, your hire date must be at least 13 weeks before the expected date of birth, or start of the parental or adoption leave.

Long-Term Income Protection (LTIP)

Q57. If I am on LTIP before a strike or lockout, do my LTIP benefits continue?

Yes, because LTIP is not paid directly by the employer.

Q58. If I am on LTIP when a strike or lockout starts, will I receive other benefits?

Based on our discussions with the employer about benefits, your benefits should be continued in the event of a strike or lockout and OPSEU will reimburse the employer for all costs.

Q59. If I become ill or injured while on strike or locked out, will I be eligible for LTIP benefits?

No you will not have LTIP coverage for an injury or illness that occurs during a strike or lockout.

Q60. Would a strike or lockout interrupt my six-month qualifying period for LTIP?

No. You are eligible for LTIP benefits if your application is approved. You can qualify for LTIP during a strike or lockout. A strike or lockout does not delay your eligibility.

Q61. If approved, will my LTIP benefits begin immediately or will they be delayed until after a strike or lockout ends?

Your LTIP benefits will begin immediately.

Q62. While I am returning to work on a gradual basis, I have been receiving both rehabilitative employment earnings from the employer and LTIP benefits. Will I continue to receive both during the strike?

The employer does not pay you. Your LTIP benefits continue to be paid by the insurer without the usual reduction of 50 per cent of your rehabilitative employment earnings.

Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) Benefits

Q63. If I am injured while on strike duty, can I make a WSIB claim?

No, you can’t.

Q64. If I am getting WSIB benefits, will they continue during a strike or lockout?

In many cases, yes, provided you continue to qualify medically and co-operate with WSIB-approved programs.

However, if WSIB discontinues or threatens to discontinue your benefits, contact the OPSEU Pensions and Benefits Department and ask to speak to the WSIB Benefits Counsellor.

Q65. If I have an approved WSIB claim and I am in receipt of WSIB benefits, who pays me during a strike or lockout?

WSIB will pay you directly.

Q66. Does the WSIB pay me the equivalent of my salary?

No. If the WSIB pays you directly, you will get WSIB benefits which are 85 per cent of your net average earnings for any injury or illness that occurred after January 1, 1998, or 90 per cent for any injury or illness prior to that.

Q67. Would my strike pay affect the WSIB benefits that I get during a strike or lockout?

No. Strike pay is not considered earnings by WSIB and therefore is not offset from WSIB benefits. However, you are in receipt of WSIB benefits because you are deemed to be too ill or injured to be working; if WSIB believes you have recovered enough to be working (i.e., because you have reported for strike duty) they may not continue your WSIB benefits.

Q68. Will I have benefit coverage if I am on WSIB during a strike or lockout?

You can keep employment benefits for one year from the date of your injury or until you return to work, whichever is sooner. You must pay your share of the premiums.

Your benefit coverage remains the same as when you were at work.

Q69. What happens if I am getting WSIB benefits and am ready to return to some type of work during a strike or lockout?

The employer will probably tell the WSIB that there is no appropriate placement for you due to the labour dispute. If this happens, inform the WSIB of your situation and your intention to continue following WSIB rules. You should continue to receive WSIB benefits as long as you co-operate with their requirements.

If WSIB discontinues your benefits, contact the OPSEU Pensions and Benefits Department and ask to speak to the WSIB Benefits Counsellor.

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