What is a Job Action?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
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  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
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A job action is a form of protest used by workers on a temporary basis to demand rights, draw attention to safety issues, or lend weight to contract negotiations. Job actions can take a number of forms, and they can be dealt with in a variety of ways. Average individuals are most commonly affected by actions when they lead to a shutdown in services like education, emergency response, airlines, and so forth.

In the most radical form of job action, workers agree to strike, refusing to work until their demands are met. Workers can also initiate a slowdown, in which they still work, but they perform their tasks at a much slower pace. Slowdowns are sometimes used in critical industries to ensure that work is still being performed while drawing attention to issues. Actions can also involve things like picketing, sickouts, and other forms of protest, and typically education programs are aimed at the public during a job action to make people aware of the issues involved.

For non-unionized workers, an action is often used to lobby to be permitted to join a union. Because the workers are not unionized, job actions can be dangerous, as the company may choose to hire replacements rather than address the requests of the workers. With union protection, workers can engage in a job action without having to worry about losing their jobs, and often with financial and legal support from the union to ensure that the action will be successful.


In order for an action to work, the majority of workers need to be on board with the plan. If only some of the workers agree to participate, the message can be diluted, and the workers who engage in the action may be written off as troublemakers, rather than people with genuine concerns. Job actions also tend to be more effective when they are used as a step of last resort, after workers have exhausted other avenues of potential communication and protest.

When a job action is going on, individuals and other companies must decide whether or not to continue doing business with the company in which the action is occurring. Some people prefer to refrain from doing business during an ongoing job action, as an expression of solidarity, especially if they belong to labor unions. People not in unions may still have ethical qualms, because actions often concern issues like safety in the workplace, health care for workers, and fair pay.


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Post 1

This may sound like a silly question but I am curious to know a legal opinion and wonder if you are in a position to properly answer this?

Can it be considered a job action if it occurs outside normal working hours where a contract specifically states that the normal work hours can not be modified. This is a situation where an employer is trying to force employees to come in for a special weekend event (paid overtime) and since labor relations are poor, the employees do not wish to work the overtime event as they have in the past.

There are past presidents working this event but we feel that it is voluntary since it is on our weekend off but the employer is threatening dismissal for job action on behalf of the employees involved. What do you think?

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