Layoffs of third-party cleaning staff on strike at Durham college could be ‘illegal,’ expert says
The Toronto Star is reporting on the cleaning workers’ strike at two Durham College campuses. The company that employs the cleaners, GDI Integrated Facility Services, recently sent notice of temporary layoff to striking employees, retroactive to the date their strike began. The company also told employees that their employment would be resumed if they crossed the picket line. But as lawyers interviewed by the Star noted, it is illegal to tell employees they will be laid off unless they cross a legal picket line.
The Star spoke to Simon Archer:
A lawyer who works with trade unions to negotiate agreements and settle disputes said the layoffs could be legal, depending on how the facts are proven.
“It’s an intimidation tactic,” said Simon Archer, a partner at Goldblatt Partners LLP, in an email. A company can lay off workers for legitimate business reasons — such as if business has died down during the strike — but they can’t lay them off simply because workers are on strike, or to order them to do something contrary to a strike, he said.
“Done properly it scares workers into thinking they won’t have a job. Done improperly it will get challenged by the union (legitimately) and the layoff notices will be reversed,” Archer said. “In the end, to resolve a strike, anyone laid off will most likely have to be reinstated anyway.”