Collective bargaining is a process in which a union and an employer negotiate a collective agreement.
A collective agreement is a written contract of employment covering a group of employees who are represented by a trade union. This agreement outlines the terms and conditions of employment. It also contains the rights, privileges and duties of the employer, the union and the employees.
The first step in the collective bargaining process is for either party to formally give notice to bargain. The Labour Relations Act states that notice to bargain can be given by either party within 90 days of the expiration of the collective agreement.
In the Ontario education sector, all collective agreements expired August 31, 2012. Under the Labour Relations Act, contracts stay in effect after their expiry date until a new contract is reached.
Local bargaining began between the TDSB and its union partners in September 2012.
The parties are required by legislation to meet and to bargain in good faith. This means that each side must make every reasonable effort to reach a collective agreement.
At any time after bargaining starts, either party can apply for conciliation. Conciliation involves an application to the Ministry of Labour requesting the appointment of a conciliation officer. 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 lock-out.
Conciliators do not have a formal mandate or authority but work with the parties to see if they can help resolve differences and reach a collective agreement.
At any time after conciliation begins, either party can apply to the Minister of Labour for a “no board” report.
When conciliation fails, the Minister can issue a notice informing the parties that he or she does not consider it advisable to appoint a Conciliation Board. This has become known as the “no board report”. As a matter of practice, the Minister generally will issue a “no board” report within one week of a request being made.
Once a no board report is issued, a 16-day wait period starts before further actions can be taken. When this period has expired on the 17th day, employees are in a legal strike position and the employer can impose a lockout or new terms and conditions of employment.
Strike and Lockout
A strike is any action or activity by teachers that is designed or expected to have the effect of curtailing, limiting, or interfering with: the normal activities of the board or its employees; the operation or functioning of schools or programs; and the performance of teachers as set out in the Education Act or a regulation including the withdrawal of services.
A lock-out is when an employer closes a workplace, suspends work or refuses to continue employing a number of employees during a labour dispute.
There are several things that need to happen to get into a legal position to strike or lock-out:
Employees cannot lawfully strike unless a strike vote by secret ballot is taken 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.