OAG strike: FAQ on work-to-rule

What is work-to-rule? 

Work-to-rule is job action in which employees do their jobs exactly as outlined by the rules of their contract or job description, and precisely follow all safety or other regulations and manuals which may cause a slowdown or decrease in productivity as they are no longer working during breaks or during unpaid extended hours and weekends (checking email outside of work hours, for instance).   

Notable examples have included nurses refusing to answer telephones and teachers refusing to work for free at night and during weekends and holidays. Refusal to work overtime, travel on duty, or sign up to other tasks requiring employee assent or that are outside of your job description and duties are other manifestations of using work-to-rule.  In a sense, “work-to-rule” involves applying to the-letter rules that are normally set aside or interpreted less literally to increase efficiency or refraining from activities which are customary but not required by rule or job description. 

We are asking you to use your discretion to do your job how you were trained to do it, in accordance with all workplace manuals and legislation. Work-to-rule means doing your job to the letter of the law. Consult manuals and legislation wherever applicable. 

Since work-to-rule does not involve walking off the job and does not include picket lines, strike pay provisions do not apply. We expect you to continue to be paid as normal by the employer. 

Why a work-to-rule? 

A work-to-rule can be combined with other non-strike actions such as rallies and political pressure on MPs on days of rest and lunch hours, wearing Strike Alert stickers in the workplace, using virtual backgrounds etc. 

What if I am on annual or parental leave when a work-to-rule starts? 

The employer can technically cancel leave at any time. Normally, they do not cancel leave that has been previously approved but will not approve new leave during strike action. We encourage those who are on leave to remain on leave and not participate in strike action. 

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. 

What should I do if my manager disciplines me for participating in a work-to-rule?  

You can protest that you are upholding the professional standards of your workplace as you have been trained to do – that is exactly what a work-to-rule is. You should also ask your manager for their request in writing and make sure to contact your Local president and PSAC Regional Office right away to make sure they know and can intervene. 

What happens if work-to-rule doesn’t lead to a new contract? 

The work-to-rule strategy is just the first step in our strike activities. Other types of strikes, including a general strike, rotating strikes and strategic strikes, are all options under consideration for the next phases as we ramp up our strike action. Only then will essential and non-essential designations come into play. 

All future strike activity will be carefully planned out by the union, taking into consideration strategic activities and the health and safety of members during the pandemic. 

What does work-to-rule look like at OAG? 

Reach out to your local union mobilization committee to find out which strategies will be used at OAG.