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29 Australian Journal of Labour Law 171


This article locates strike ballot laws at the intersection of two of labour law’s primary goals, promoting collective bargaining by responsible unions and reducing industrial conflict. Depending on their design, strike ballot laws may aim to protect democratic voice or to create an obstacle to engaging in lawful strikes. Strike ballot requirements in Canada were initially imposed during World War II primarily to reduce industrial conflict. The requirement was controversial and after the war most provinces opted not to make a strike ballot a condition of lawful strike action. Between the 1960s and the late 1990s, however, strike ballot votes became universally required in private sector collective bargaining laws. Focusing on three Canadian jurisdictions, this article explores the circumstances in which these laws were enacted and the forms they took. Overall, the article finds that Canadian strike ballot laws do not unduly burden unions when they seek a mandate to conduct a lawful strike from their members and that they have been interpreted by labour boards and courts as a way to protect trade union democracy rather than to limit industrial conflict. For this reason, the issue of strike votes is not currently a controversial topic in Canada.

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