OAG strike: FAQ for Essential Employees

What does it mean to be an essential employee? 

An essential employee is one who occupies a position that has been designated as providing an “essential service.” An Essential Services Agreement (ESA) has been negotiated between PSAC and the OAG. It identifies positions that are necessary for the OAG to provide essential services to the government and public. You will receive a letter telling you whether your position has any duties deemed essential.  

Employees identified as occupying essential positions are prohibited from participating in any strike. Occupying an essential position means you cannot stop work and engage in the strike, but you remain able to support your co-workers before and after work, and during lunch breaks, by joining them on the picket line.

What does it mean to be Code 1 vs. Code 2? 

If you are a Code 1 essential employee, you are designated as a full-time essential employee and are expected to report to work. Seven employees are classified as Code 1.  

If you are Code 2, you are an alternate for a specific Code 1 full-time essential employee, and you may participate in any and all strike action up to the point when the employer calls you in to replace that Code 1 employee in the case that they cannot report to work. Four employees are classified as Code 2.  

What should essential employees do when faced with a picket line? 

The picket line cannot impede essential workers from attending work. However, as an essential employee, you are permitted and encouraged to join the picket line until it is time to go into work, that includes before and after work and during lunch breaks. As an essential employee you are entitled to work under the frozen terms and conditions of employment in place when the notice to bargain was served. 

What should I NOT do when there is a strike of my bargaining unit? 

Since you are occupying an essential position, you cannot legally withdraw your services from work. But you should not perform any of the work ordinarily performed by the people who are on the picket line. 

During a strike, can I refuse to train other people (or other managers) if my manager asks me to do so? 

As an essential employee, you can refuse to train other workers or managers so long as training others is NOT in your job description or outlined in your essential services letter. 

Can I refuse overtime work? 

Before a strike has been declared, employees should not refuse overtime work for any reason other than those reasons they would normally use to refuse overtime (e.g., family responsibilities). Once a strike has been declared, however, essential employees may refuse overtime work unless the overtime work has been deemed essential under the Essential Services Agreement (ESA), and in your essential services letter. 

Can essential employees engage in work-to-rule? 

Yes, essential employees can participate in work-to-rule but should take care not to disrupt job functions classified as essential in the essential services letter sent by the employer.