voting

On Strike Votes and Turnouts

Last week, more than 120,000 members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada/Alliance de la fonction publique du Canada (PSAC/AFPC) – the union that represents many of Canada’s federal employees – went on strike. The unresolved bargaining issues include wage rates and the amount of remote work (“work at home”) done by PSAC members.

A PSAC member filed a complaint with the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board asking for the strike vote to be declared invalid, because PSAC shortened the voting period after the announcement of the vote. In their decision, the three Board members hearing the complaint noted that while “the respondent made no discernible effort to announce its reduction of the voting period”, and expressed misgivings about other aspects of the changes to the voting process, such as limited attempts to reach members without email addresses, and limited capacity at the mandatory information meetings held online prior to the vote itself.

Nevertheless, the Board members concluded, the vote was more than 80% in favour of striking and “the Board is satisfied that in the current circumstances, the vote result would have been the same even without the irregularities.”

A considerable amount of the news coverage of this case has focused on the low turnout in the vote – only 35% of eligible PSAC members participated. The underlying tone to much of this coverage is that because of the low turnout, the vote is somehow not representative of the opinion of the entire PSAC membership. It seems that some journalists and commentators could benefit from a review of some basic information about strike votes and democratic processes. Here it is. (more…)