During a Strike, Courts Should Not Limit the Number of Picketers Unless/Until There Is Non-Compliance with the Injunction
In IWA Local 2693 v. Industrial Hardwood, Ontario Court of Appeal, January 10, 2001, the Court addressed a strike where property access was delayed by picketing
strikers. The delays were often a half hour, although the picketers would obey the requests of police, when they arrived, to open the line.
The lower court issued an injunction, holding that picketing was prohibited “save for the purpose of communicating information to those wishing to receive it and then only for a maximum of five minutes”.
The injunction also limited the number of pickets to four.
The Court of Appeal upheld the five minute rule but overturned the limit on the number of pickets. The Court of Appeal held:
…Given the facts here, the order properly prohibits the obstruction of access to the plant and in support of that objective it limits the time for the communicating of information to those wishing to receive it to a maximum of five minutes. However, in the circumstances of this case, I do not think it reasonable to limit to
four the number of picketers communicating that information.
In this context it must be remembered that picketing is a vital and constitutionally sanctioned means of collective expression in modern labour relations. Picketing speaks not just to the issues in dispute, but to the solidarity of the employees involved. In this respect, the number of picketers is itself an
important part of that expression.
…The problem here was not the number of picketers but the delay in the arrival of the police. In these circumstances, limiting the number of picketers goes further than necessary to prevent a recurrence of the demonstrated obstruction of access. It unreasonably restricts an important aspect of the employees’ right of
expression. I would therefore strike this term from the order.
Having done so, it need hardly be said that if there is non-compliance with this order as amended in the future, then depending on the nature of that non-compliance it may well warrant a strict numerical limit on or even a complete prohibition of information picketing.
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