Essential services

Where a labour dispute has the potential to threaten the health, safety, and welfare of British Columbians, the Minister of Labour may direct the Labour Relations Board to designate minimum levels of service that must be maintained during a strike or lockout.

The Board can only designate services as essential and set minimum staffing levels in response to a labour dispute. It has no authority to designate services as essential or set minimum staffing levels in response to a natural disaster or pandemic.

Where the parties agree that essential services are in issue, they are encouraged to meet at least three months before the collective agreement expires to discuss essential workload and staffing levels in case job action becomes necessary.

If the parties can't agree on essential staffing levels, either party can apply to the Board for help from a mediator.

Where the parties disagree about whether a labour dispute would pose a threat to the health, safety, and welfare of British Columbians, either party can apply to the Chair asking the Board to investigate the issue.

The Chair will then make a recommendation to the Minister of Labour.

If satisfied that the dispute poses a threat, the Minister will direct the Board to designate as essential the facilities, productions and services necessary to prevent immediate and serious danger to the health, safety or welfare of the residents of British Columbia.


Once the parties agree or the Minister orders that an essential service designation is required, the parties have to identify what level of services need to be provided during a strike or lockout in order to avoid the threat to the health, safety, and welfare of British Columbians.

In deciding on minimum staffing levels, the parties should consider:

  • what work needs to be done
  • how many people must be available to do the work
  • how much work will be done
  • who will do the work

The employer may need to give the union relevant information such as:

  • normal staffing levels, including shift schedules
  • proposed essential services staffing levels
  • a list of non-union staff and where they may be asked to work if there is job action
  • a list of volunteers who may continue providing service if there is job action

The Board has developed Global Orders for essential service designations. The Global Orders were developed over decades of experience and in order to minimize disputes about how essential services will be carried out.  The minimum staffing levels are attached to the Global Order as a Schedule.

To apply for a mediator to help in resolving an essential services dispute, the parties to a collective agreement must:

  1. Complete Form 72: Application for the Designation of Essential Services


  1. Submit the application by email, mail, or courier
  2. Serve the other party as required by the Rules
  3. Arrange to pay the $100 filing fee

Filing by email? The Board only accepts supporting information in PDF, MP3, or MP4 format. Supporting information cannot be provided by a file-share link at this time.


This page was last updated: 2023-07-09

Disclaimer: The information on this website is provided for general purposes only and is not legal advice. This information is subject to the Labour Relations Code, the Labour Relations Board Rules, the Labour Relations Regulation and the published decisions of the Board

The Labour Relations Board acknowledges the territories of the many diverse Indigenous Peoples in the geographic area we serve. With gratitude and respect, we acknowledge that the Board’s office is located on the unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səlil̓wətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.