BARGAINING PROCESS FAQ
This section provides members with helpful information regarding the requirements of the Ontario Labour Relations Act pertaining to conciliation and strike/lockout. Beginning with conciliation, these are the steps which the Society and Bruce Power will be required to follow if we encounter a bargaining impasse during negotiations.
BARGAINING PROCESS FLOW DIAGRAM
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO OUR COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT IF IT EXPIRES?
Our current collective agreement will remain in effect until the point at which we are in a legal strike/lockout position.
WHAT IS CONCILIATION?
Conciliation is a process by which a trade union or employer can ask the Ontario Ministry of Labour for help in resolving their differences so that they can reach a collective agreement. Either party may apply to the ministry. If parties are in negotiations, they must use the government's conciliation services before they can get into a position to engage in a strike or lockout.
WHAT IF THE EMPLOYER AND THE UNION CANNOT REACH AGREEMENT IN CONCILIATION?
The conciliation officer informs the Ontario Minister of Labour that a collective agreement was unable to be effected. The minister would then generally issue a notice informing the union and the employer that he or she "does not consider it advisable to appoint a conciliation board" (section 21(b) of the act). This notice is known colloquially as the "no board" report. Conciliation boards are exceedingly rare and they have not been appointed in recent years.
WHAT FURTHER ASSISTANCE IS AVAILABLE TO THE BARGAINING PARTIES AFTER A "NO BOARD" GETS ISSUED?
If the parties have not reached a settlement in the conciliation stage, the ministry continues to offer the services of a mediator who will confer with the parties and endeavour to effect a collective agreement. This is referred to as the mediation stage, a process by which a third-party attempts to help a trade union and an employer in reaching a collective agreement. Since mediation is discretionary, the service is only used if both parties agree to it.
WHEN ARE THE PARTIES IN A LEGAL POSITION TO STRIKE OR LOCKOUT?
There are several preconditions to commencing a legal strike or lockout:
- If an employer and union are party to a collective agreement, the agreement must have expired.
- In the case of a strike, a strike vote must have been held (see below for exceptions).
- A Conciliation Officer must have been appointed and a "no-board" issued (see below for details)
It is legal to strike or lockout beginning on the 17th day after the minister issues the "no board" notice. For example, if the notice was issued on August 1st, the parties can legally strike or lockout on or after August 18th. (See Sections 79(2)(b) and 122(2)(b) of the Labour Relations Act, 1995).
WHAT IS A STRIKE? WHAT IS A LOCKOUT?
The Labour Relations Act defines these in the following terms:
“Strike” includes a cessation of work, a refusal to work or to continue to work by employees in combination or in concert or in accordance with a common understanding, or a slow-down or other concerted activity on the part of employees designed to restrict or limit output.
“Lockout” includes the closing of a place of employment, a suspension of work or a refusal by an employer to continue to employ a number of employees, with a view to compel or induce the employees, or to aid another employer to compel or induce that employer’s employees, to refrain from exercising any rights or privileges under the Ontario Labour Relations Act or to agree to provisions or changes in provisions respecting terms or conditions of employment or the rights, privileges or duties of the employer, an employers’ organization, the trade union, or the employees.
MUST THERE BE A STRIKE VOTE BEFORE A STRIKE CAN TAKE PLACE?
A union holding a strike vote is a common occurrence in collective bargaining and does not mean a strike will occur.
Employees cannot lawfully strike unless a strike vote is taken by the Society within 30 days of the collective agreement expiring or at any time after the agreement expires, and more than 50 per cent vote in favour of the strike. A strike vote must be by secret ballot and all people eligible to vote must have ample opportunity to do so. All employees in a bargaining unit, whether or not they are trade union members, are entitled to participate in such a vote. (See Section 79 of the Labour Relations Act, 1995).
CAN THE EMPLOYER REQUEST A VOTE OF EMPLOYEES ON THE EMPLOYER’S “LAST OFFER”?
Any time before or after the commencement of a strike or lockout, the employer may request that the Ontario Minister of Labour direct a vote of the employees in the affected bargaining unit to accept or reject the employer's last offer on all matters remaining in dispute. Upon receiving this request, the minister is obligated to direct such a vote (except in the construction industry where the minister's authority to direct a vote is discretionary). Neither the request to the minister nor the holding of the vote affect the time periods set out in the act. (See Section 42 of the Labour Relations Act, 1995). The employer can only request such a vote once in a given round of collective bargaining.
IF THE EMPLOYEE’S TURN DOWN THE EMPLOYER’S “LAST OFFER” IS THIS LIKE A STRIKE VOTE?
No, a strike vote is taken separately.