Strikes and Alternative Forms of Coping

Are strikes the most beneficial way of resolving labour - management
conflict? Or are alternative forms of coping more beneficial?. Throughout this
paper I will attempt to answer these questions by, first giving a description of
each of these forms of coping. Then I will examine the effects, both positive
and negative, that each of these forms of coping has on the collective
bargaining process as well as the labor - management relationship. Finally I
will compare the effectiveness of strikes as opposed to the effectiveness of
alternative forms of coping.
A strike occurs when unionized workers collectively agree to stop
working in order to try and force management to agree to a new collective
bargaining agreement. Under the law a strike can only occur if the existing
collective bargaining agreement has expired and generally strikes do not occur
unless labour and management have reached a stalemate in the contract
negotiations. Negotiations often stall for a number of reasons, but the most
common reasons are wage and benefit levels. Often both sides over estimate the
other sides willingness to concede and when both sides have given all they are
willing to give without reaching a compromise, a stalemate is reached. During a
stalemate both sides try to convince the other that they are unable give any
more. In order to show there determination unionized workers often decide to go
strike, and will stay on strike until management is ready to give in to their
demands. The workers determine whether or not they feel the need to strike, by a
strike vote. If the majority of workers are in favor of going on strike then the
union declares a day and time that an agreement must be reached, or there
workers will walk off the job. A number of restrictions apply with respect to
the actions of workers once a strike has begun. First, there are restrictions on
picketing, you must have permission to picket on privately owned property.
Second, you can not legally stop people or shipments from going in or out of the
company, nor can you cause harm to anyone wishing to cross the picket line. If
the employer sees that you are violating these laws, he or she can seek an
injunction, to limit your ability to picket. The employer has certain rights
during a strike. First they have the right to continue operations during the
strike, be it by filling in them selves or by hiring replacement workers.
Secondly, they can fire anyone who takes part in sabotage or violence during a
strike. Third, they can discontinue benefits during a strike, and they do not
have to follow the old agreement, they can change the terms and conditions of
employment until a new agreement is reached. The benefits of striking include
higher wages, more benefits, better working conditions, etc... There is also a
negative side to striking. If management decides to hire replacement workers
during your absence, you may not have a job to return to. Management may be
prepared to leave you on strike for long periods of time, for example, Federated
Co-Op allowed the workers in Nipawan to stay on strike for seven years. Also
during a strike you are not receiving a paycheck, unions usually try to pay
strikers, but this is usually a fraction of your old paycheck. Finally during a
long strike, the company may have not been able to meet its orders and may have
lost business, this could lead to layoffs when a settlement is reached. Strikes
are most common among highly skilled workers, because they possess a lot of
strike power. Strike power is what it would cost management if you went on
strike. If you are a worker at a fast food restaurant you possess very little
strike power because in the event of a strike you could easily be replaced. But
if you have a highly skilled job, it will cost management to hire and train
someone to replace you. Striking does not, in most cases, alter the labor -
management relationship. Once a contract is reached most workplace return to
business as usual. Managers as well as labor should not take what is said at the
negotiation table personally, because each side is just trying to prove it is
right. For example during contract negotiations of athletes, players will often
try to compare themselves to another player, and state that he is better and
deserves to payed so. Management will try to prove that he not as goad as that
player and that