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Labour Disputes

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Role of police in labour disputes

A labour dispute is a civil contractual dispute between management and labour and, if no breach of the peace occurs, police have no reason to intervene. 

In the event of a labour dispute, members of the York Regional Police Labour Relations Unit have a mandate to:

  • Establish a liaison with members of organized labour and management
  • Advise and assist with labour disputes where possible
  • Ensure all people involved in the dispute are aware of their lawful rights

Police officers are instructed to maintain a neutral presence in such disputes. Police will limit their involvement to the maintenance of peace and order, preventing the commission of offences, enforcing the law and safeguarding the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Human Rights Code.

In the interest of public safety, it may become necessary for police officers at the scene to ensure the free and safe flow of pedestrians and motor traffic on roadways and sidewalks, and to remove any obstructions, according to the provisions of the Highway Traffic Act and the Criminal Code of Canada.

Where a breach of law occurs during the course of a labour dispute, police will treat the situation as they would under any other circumstances. 

Police will not provide advice on possible civil remedies to parties involved in a labour dispute.

Role of employers, union officials and picketers in labour disputes

Employers, union officials and picketers should be aware of their legal rights and responsibilities. These responsibilities include regulating the behaviour of their respective members and representatives at labour disputes and maintaining peaceful picketing. 

An employer may lawfully carry on business during a labour dispute. This may include the use of replacement employees. 

Lawful picketing

Peaceful picketing on public property for the purpose of obtaining or communicating information is lawful. It is legal for a picketer to use peaceful persuasion and display signage to persons about to enter or leave picketed premises.

Freedom of expression is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Where delays at picket lines are occurring, reasonable delay times may be negotiated between the parties. An informal, non-binding agreement or protocol, by which parties can abide, is useful for picket-line activities.

Protocols typically define picket-line conduct, picket facilities and other related issues. In cases where an agreement cannot be achieved in order to form a protocol, legal counsel should be consulted.

The use of barricades, force, threats, intimidation or the blocking of access to or from a premise is illegal. This tactic is commonly referred to as “blocking”.

Blocking does not include reasonable delays caused by picketers in order to communicate information.

Information regarding other demonstrations can be found on our Protests, Rallies and Demonstrations page.