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What is a lockout?

Many people are aware that strikes occur when unionized employees walk off the job to protest existing terms and conditions of their employment under their collective bargaining agreement in order to compel the employer to agree to better terms.

A lockout is when the employer is the party that prevents the worker from doing their job. Basically, the employer stops the employee from entering the workplace by either closing the workplace, suspending the worker or refusing to employ the workers during the period of lockout. Employers do so to compel unionized employees to agree to their terms and conditions of employment.

What legislation applies to lockouts?

Federal unionized employees fall under the Canada Labour Code and provincial/territorial employees fall under legislation of their province or territory.

For example, under the federal legislation, the federal employer has to do the following:

  • The employer has to give the union a “lockout notice” at least 72-hours, before the lockout starts (for a strike, the union must give the same amount of notice to the employer); and
  • At the end of a lockout, the employer has to re-employ the employees he or she locked out.

Do I get paid while my employer has locked me out?

Health and welfare benefits usually continue during the lockout, depending on the legislation of your province or territory, and as long as the union continues paying the premiums.

In terms of pay, again depending on the legislation, you should receive the same as strike pay, which is not the same as your regular pay and usually is less than your regular pay.

When are strikes and lockouts unlawful?

Most strikes and lockouts are legal as they are seen as legitimate processes of the collective bargaining process. That is because if negotiations break down they are ways in which either side can persuade each other to settle in their favour or even go back to the bargaining process.

However, there are times when strikes and lockouts are not legal.

For example, if employees undertake to go on strike without the consent of the union that is considered an illegal strike, because employees have not followed the rules and regulations of the applicable legislation on how to proceed with a strike action. Depending on the legislation, employees could face consequences, such as being fired.

For lockouts, if the employer has failed to give the union the required notice, as specified under the applicable legislation, then the lockout will not be valid. For example, under the Canada Labour Code, the employer has to give the union at least 72 hours’ notice before the lockout starts. Punishing an employee after a lockout is also illegal and will likely cause the employer to be disciplined. Employers are also not allowed to fire employees during or after a lockout.

If you are having issues with your employment due to a strike or lockout you should consult a lawyer.

Read more:

Strikes, Lockouts and Picketing British Columbia

Canada Labour Code