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Reasons, Impact And Consequences Of Labor Strikes

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On a news article published on the CTV News Vancouver, John Horgan, who is the British Colombian’s Premier, said that he wouldn’t allow Transit operators’ union to continue causing more disruptions on service (CTV News, 2019). While talking in a gathering in Vancouver Island, Horgan said that the union, together with the Metro management, should engage in collective bargaining to solve the matter (CTV News, 2019). The union advised its members to down their tool until they get a better offer from their employer, and this has resulted in delays in several bus routes. Besides, it forced the management to cancel another 16 scheduled SeaBus runs that were to operate between North Shore and Vancouver.

Employees consider the right to strike as an integral part of the collective bargaining process. One of the reasons why strikes are considered essential is that they are always readily available for labor unions when they seek attention and recognition from the employer (Cameron, 2013). Although many employees and labor unions consider strike as one of the most publicized and recognized elements of a workplace dispute, this method is also one of the most misunderstood and confusing. Some employers and employees think that for a strike to be considered successful, people must be on the street while carrying placards and demanding for their rights (Cameron 2013). Although this is one method of striking, a strike can also involve employees withholding labor to improve their working conditions or wages.

Reasons Why Employees may Go on Strike

Several reasons may drive employees to go on strike, and one of them is low wages (Abiwu, 2016). Low pay is one of the primary reasons why employees decide to strike, and an excellent example is the case of the Transit workers. According to the Transit workers union, its members are underpaid as compared to other transit workers in other cities like Toronto (Boynton & little, 2019). McGarrigle said that drivers in Toronto are paid around three dollars more per hour as compared to drivers in Vancouver (Boynton & little, 2019). Many employees also believe that, by going on strike, they have very little to lose since they are not taking home very much money anyway.

Poor working conditions are another reason why employees may engage in job action (Cameron, 2013). For example, according to the Transit workers union, many of its members complained that their employer is not giving them enough time to recover (Boynton & little, 2019). The union leaders also said that their members are being stretched at work, and CMBC leadership does also not guarantee them minimum break times. Some of the employees also complain of being given little time to go to the bathroom, or even eat (Boynton & Little, 2019). This shows that poor working conditions can drive workers into job action.

Poor communication with the employer is also another factor that may drive employees to go on strike (Cameron, 2016). Trade unions are more likely to call for job action when there are high levels of mistrust between them and the employer (Cameron, 2013). Numerous strikes have taken place because the employer says that the organization is undergoing tough financial times during negotiations, but employees see otherwise in financial books of the firm (Cameron, 2016). Workers cannot trust an employer who refuses to increases wages while claiming financial difficulties, and at the same time, the firm continues to report profits (Cameron, 2013). Once trade unions think that the employer is lying to them, they are likely to push their members to go on strike. To prevent this from happening, organizations should always make sure that, before they begin any wage negotiation, the rest of the business should be synchronized with the human resource department.

Awarding senior management wage increments and bonuses while ignoring other employees may also result in strikes (Gerdeman, 2018). Trade unions, together with employees, may not take seriously any employer who argues that wages need to be limited during negotiations, but at the same time, the organization’s board of directors has approved special payments to top management (Cameron, 2013). Many employees acknowledge that senior management makes a lot of money as compared to lower-level employees, but they are likely to be unhappy if they perceive this high pay as unfair (Gerdeman, 2018). According to Ethan Rouen, who is an assistant professor at the Harvard Business School, “many work decisions that are made by people not only depend on what they are being paid but also depend on what the people around them are being paid” (Rouen, 2016). Rouen also says that if an individual above an employee is making more than an employee, and the worker feels that the wage is unfair, he or she is more likely to demand pay rise or reduce productivity (Rouen, 2016).

Employees also go on strike because it is their constitutional right, according to article 27(1) of the Inter-American Charter of Social Guarantees (Waas, 2012). This article was adopted in 1948, and it says that employees have the right to strike, but the law has the authority of regulating the exercise and conditions of that right (Waas, 2012). Besides, the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation, signed in 1993, also says that the right of employees to strike should be protected (Waas, 2012). This agreement says that this right should be protected so as to defend workers’ collective interests. This agreement was signed between three nations, the United States of America, Mexico and Canada.

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Consequences of Strike

Strikes have economic effects on both the employer and the employees. According to a study conducted by Wellington and Winter, industrial actions have fewer benefits in the public sector as compared to the private sector (Wellington & Winter, 1969). One of the reasons that were highlighted by the two for this include, the issue of employer monopsony is less serious in the public sectors. Another reason why Wellington and Winter believed that striking is less beneficial in the public sector is that any action by the employer, that may result in certain groups, for example, teachers benefiting, may result in strikes in other industries (Wellington & Winter, 1969). For instance, when teachers decide to go on strike, and as a result, the government agrees to grant them pay rise, doctors may also choose to go on strike so as get a pay rise because teachers got it.

For employers, one of the consequences of strikes is the loss of production and customers. The case of transit workers is an excellent example to illustrate how employers can lose production and customers due to strikes. Michael McDaniel, who is the president of both TransLink and CMBC, said that the transit workers’ job action might result in up to14 SeaBus sailings being canceled by the first week of the strike (Boynton & little, 2019). He also said that SeaBus might also cancel 30 further sailings if the job action continues. Since the union also banned its employees from working overtime, TransLink said that some of its buses wouldn’t be able to be repaired (Boynton & little, 2019). According to Jill Drews, who is the spokesperson for TransLink, the piling up of maintenance work will result in TransLink’s fleet to shrink (Boynton & little, 2019). This is a clear indication that strikes are more likely to reduce the production of an organization, as well as result in a firm losing customers.

On the other, one of the consequences of strikes on employees is that they may lose their remuneration. This is because, many organizations, both in public and private sectors, have adopted “the no work, no pay principle” (Abiwu, 2016). Besides, workers may also lose their source of income in situations where the employer, especially in the private sector, decides to dismiss all the striking employees. According to studies conducted by Venter and Levy in 2014, it was determined that industrial action is one of the major factors that result in employee dismissal around the world (Venter & Levy, 2014). Many workers get dismissed because they participate in unprotected strikes. Even though employees have the right to strike, according to the ILO convention or even the labor agreement signed between Canada, the USA and Mexico, employers have the authority to dismiss employees if they participate in unprotected industrial actions.

Once the strike is over, although the employer may not have fired the employees, an unhealthy employment relationship may be created. This is supported by the studies carried out by Abiwu in 2016. According to Abiwu, strikes negatively affect the relationship and trust employees have between them and their employers (Abiwu, 2016). This leads to the employer and employees to have a bitter working relationship (Abiwu, 2016). Although the law may prohibit the employer from dismissing employees due to strike, the employer may start to look for other reasons, which may be perceived as genuine, to fire the employees who went on strike.

Furthermore, there can be a division between employees who went on strike and those who decided to stay and work. Due to this, these two parties may view each other as enemies, and this is likely to have negative implications on both the working conditions and employment relations (Abiwu, 2016). Employers are also more likely to favor employees who stayed behind when their collages went on strike.

In conclusion, industrial action is one of the methods employees can use to solve workplace issues. Trade unions, as well as employees, consider strikes as an integral part of the collective bargaining process. There are several reasons why employees go on strike, and they include low wages. An excellent example to illustrate how low wages can drive employees to strike is the case of Metro Transit workers. According to their trade union, one of the reasons why they were engaging in industrial action is that drivers in Vancouver are being paid lower as compared to drivers in other cities such as Toronto.

Other reasons why employees may engage in strikes include unfair wage disparity between top management and lower-level employees, mistrust between the employer and employees, as well as poor working conditions. Although workers may gain through industrial actions, such activities also come with their consequences and one of them is that the employer may lose in terms of reduced production and lost customers. On the other hand, workers may also be negatively affected by the unhealthy employment relations that may be created with job actions. In different situations, employers may also dismiss workers who engage in unprotected strikes, and this may result in employees losing their source of income.


  1. Abiwu, L. (2016). Impact of employee strike action on employment relations in selected Accra, Ghana, public universities (Doctoral dissertation).
  2. Boynton, Sean, and Simon Little. (2019). Metro Vancouver Bus, Seabus Job Action Starts Today. Here’S What You Need To Know.’ Global News. N.p. 1 Nov.
  3. Burton, J. F., & Krider, C. (1970). The role and consequences of strikes by public employees. The Yale Law Journal, 79(3), 418-440.
  4. Cameron, J. (2013). Reasons your employees will go on strike – expert – Retrieved 12 November 2019, from
  5. CTV News. (2019). Won’t happen on my watch’: Horgan puts transit operators’ union, management on notice. Retrieved 12 November 2019, from
  6. Gerdeman, D. (2018). If The CEO’s High Salary Isn’t Justified To Employees, Firm Performance May Suffer. Retrieved 12 November 2019, from
  7. Venter, R., & Levey A. (2014). Labourrelations in South Africa. 5theditions. Cape Town: Oxford University Press Southern Africa (Pty) Ltd
  8. Waas, B. (2012). Strike as a fundamental right of the workers and its risks of conflicting with other fundamental rights of the citizens. In XX World Congress, Santiago de Chile.
  9. Rouen, E. (2016). Rethinking measurement of pay disparity and its relation to firm performance. The Accounting Review.
  10. Wellington, H. H., & Winter, R. K. (1969). The limits of collective bargaining in public employment. The Yale Law Journal, 78(7), 1107-1127.

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