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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A lockout is a work stoppage in which an employer prevents employees from working. This is different from a strike, in which employees refuse to work.



A lockout may happen for several reasons. When only part of a trade union votes to strike, the purpose of a lockout is to put pressure on a union by reducing the number of members who are able to work. For example, if the anticipated strike severely hampers work of non-striking workers, the employer may declare a lockout until the workers end the strike.

Another case in which an employer may impose a lockout is to avoid slowdowns or intermittent work-stoppages.

Other times, particularly in the United States, a lockout occurs when union membership rejects the company's final offer at negotiations and offers to return to work under the same conditions of employment as existed under the now-expired contract. In such a case, the lockout is designed to pressure the workers into accepting the terms of the company's last offer.


The term lock-in refers to the practice of physically preventing workers from leaving a workplace. In most jurisdictions this is illegal but is occasionally reported, especially in some developing countries.[citation needed]

More recently, lock-ins have been carried out by employees against management, which have been labelled 'bossnapping' by the mainstream media. In France during March 2009, 3M's national manager was locked in his office for 24 hours by employees in a dispute over redundancies.[1][2][3] The following month, employees of a call centre managed by Synovate in Auckland locked the front doors of the office, in response to management locking them out.[4] Such practices bear mild resemblance to the gherao in India.


Cartoon showing the depth of ill feeling caused by the Dublin Lockout.

The Dublin Lockout (Irish: Frithdhúnadh Mór Bhaile-Átha-Cliath) was a major industrial dispute between approximately 20,000 workers and 300 employers which took place in Ireland's capital city of Dublin. The dispute lasted from 26 August 1913 to 18 January 1914, and is often viewed as the most severe and significant industrial dispute in Irish history. Central to the dispute was the workers' right to unionize.

United States

In the United States, under Federal labor law, an employer may hire only temporary replacements during a lockout. In a strike, unless it is an unfair labor practice (ULP) strike, an employer may legally hire permanent replacements. Also, in many U.S. states, employees who are locked-out are eligible to receive unemployment benefits, but are not eligible for such benefits during a strike.[citation needed]

For the above reasons, many American employers have historically been reluctant to impose lockouts, instead attempting to provoke a strike. However, as American unions have increasingly begun to resort to slowdowns rather than strikes, lockouts have come "back in fashion" for many employers, and even as incident of strikes are on the decline, incidents of lockouts are on the rise in the U.S.[citation needed]

Recent notable lockout incidents have been reported in professional sports, notably involving the National Basketball Association in the 1998–99 season and the National Hockey League in the 1994–95 and 2004–05 seasons.

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