The Power Workers’ Union (PWU) has filed a complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board charging Ontario Hydro in Canada with conducting an unlawful lock-out. The charge arises from Ontario Hydro’s decision to send hundreds of workers home while they continue to collect their full pay.

Thw PWU has staged a ‘reverse strike’, in which the affected employees reported for work, even though they were being paid to stay at home. Company officials refused them entry to their workplaces and sent them home again. The union has charged that the utility is using the lock out as a bargaining ploy in the ongoing labour contract negotiations. The Labour Relations Board has been asked to declare the lock-out unlawful, which would require Ontario Hydro to bring the workers back.

Negotiations between the union and Ontario Hydro for a new contract have now been under way for about a month.

A legal lockout is not possible until the current collective agreement has expired and various other legal procedures have been followed. The PWU/Hydro agreement, signed in 1996, is currently open for renegotiation, but does not expire until 31 March 2000. The right to strike or lock out is suspended until 31 March 2000 as part of that agreement.