Labour Relationship Terms

Collective Agreement / Contract | Arbitration | Bargaining Unit | Bargaining, Collective / Negotiations | Base Salary | Benefits | Certification | Constitution & By-laws | Check-off | Conciliation | Employer | Executive Committee / Board | Grievance  | Labour Relations Board | Local | Lockout | Mediation | “No Board” Report | Per Capita Tax | Probation | Rand Formula | Steward | Strike | Strike-breaker / Scab | Strike Vote | Terms & Conditions

Labour Relations: the Legal Framework

Labour Relations Board: The body established under the Labour Relations Act to administer the Act, including certification of unions, investigation of unfair labour practices, and performance of mediation functions in collective bargaining disputes.

Bargaining Unit: A group of workers in a craft, department, plant, firm, industry, or occupation, determined by the Labour Relations Board to have common interests that make them appropriate for representation by a union for purposes of collective bargaining. LUFA’s bargaining unit includes some 350 “full-time” and sessional faculty and librarian employees appointed to Laurentian University, except those with management functions.

Employer: An individual or group defined in a collective agreement as ultimately responsible for the exercise and / or designation of management functions, i.e., hiring, firing, directing, evaluating, and remunerating employees. LUFA members are employed by the Board of Governors of Laurentian University, who designates the President, Vice Presidents, Deans and others to carry out management functions.

Certification: Official designation of a union by the Labour Relations Board as the exclusive bargaining agent, following proof of majority support among employees in the bargaining unit. The effect is to limit management’s discretion in determining the conditions of employment for individuals, except where this is permitted by the Collective Agreement, by forcing employers to recognise and deal with workers collectively. LUFA was certified in July 1979.

Rand Formula: “A landmark legal decision followed a [1945] strike in Windsor, Ontario involving 17,000 Ford workers. Justice Ivan Rand granted the union, as part of the settlement, the compulsory check-off of union dues. Rand ruled that all workers in a bargaining unit benefited from a union-negotiated contract. Therefore, he reasoned they must pay union dues, although they did not have to join the union. This decision meant a degree of financial stability for unions never previously enjoyed. This formula, when combined with the decision of the federal government to codify P.C. 1003 [which protected the workers’ right to organize and required employers to recognize unions chosen by a majority of workers] into the Industrial Relations and Disputes Act, created the legal framework for labour relations in Canada for the next 30 years.” (© 2001 Canadian Museum of Civilisation)

Arbitration: A method of settling disputes established by the Ontario Labour Relations Act involving the intervention of a third party, whose decision is final and binding. Such a third party can be one person or a board. The arbitration process is often the last step in settling grievances. Where the law prevents workers from striking or by agreement of the parties, it can be used as a final stage of collective bargaining.

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Collective Bargaining / Negotiations

Collective Bargaining / Negotiations: Method of determining wages, hours, and other conditions of employment through face-to-face discussions of bargaining proposals between teams of negotiators appointed by the union and employer. Normally the result of collective bargaining is a written contract which covers all employees in the bargaining unit.

Conciliation: A mandatory process established by the Ontario Labour Relations Act to attempt to resolve collective bargaining impasses. At the request of either an employer or union, the Minister of Labour, through the Labour Relations Board, appoints one of its Conciliation Officers to attempt to mediate between the parties. The Officer’s recommendations to the parties are not binding; it’s up to the parties to accept or ignore them. While either party is still willing to move, the Conciliation Officer continues to work for a settlement. If this process fails…

“No Board” Report: Where a Conciliation Officer concludes that a union and an employer are unready to conclude a collective agreement, the Officer may recommend to the Minister of Labour that a Board of Conciliation be established. Typically, this does not occur, and the conciliation officer then issues a notice to the parties that the conciliation process will end. This notice is referred to as a “no board” report [i.e., it is not worth setting up a Conciliation Board]. It is the fact that the Conciliation Officer has the power to make this recommendation that puts pressure on the parties to settle in conciliation. Following release of the notice plus 14 days, the union is in a legal strike position, and the employer is in a legal position to alter the terms & conditions of work and lock out the bargaining unit. Conversely, no union can legally strike and no employer can legally lock a union out without the release of a “no board” report by the Minister.

Mediation – A process for resolving any kind of labour dispute that involves a neutral third party conferring with the parties and attempting to obtain their voluntary agreement. This process may take place within the Labour Relations Board framework or outside it. In collective bargaining specifically, the term refers to a process whereby the Minister of Labour may, at the parties’ request, appoint a mediator selected by them jointly to confer with the parties and attempt to effect a settlement. The parties may, of course, hire a private mediator at any time during bargaining.

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Collective Agreements

Collective Agreement / Contract: An agreement in writing between one or more unions acting as bargaining agent, and one or more employers, covering wages, hours, working conditions, benefits, rights of workers and the union, and procedures to be followed in settling disputes and grievances.

Base Salary: The total wages to which an employee is entitled on an ongoing basis during periods of full-time service. This is distinct from one-time-only payments, e.g., bonuses, stipends, expense accounts.

Benefits: Non-wage compensation, such as paid vacations, pensions, health and welfare provisions, life insurance, etc., the cost of which is borne in whole or in part by the employer. “Salary-based benefits” are those that increase with higher pay, e.g., pension contributions, life insurance.

Check-off: A clause in a collective agreement authorizing an employer to deduct union dues from bargaining unit members’ pay and transmit these funds to the union. LUFA’s dues are 1.1% of each member’s earnings, expressed as a “mill rate of “.

Grievance: Complaint against management by one or more employees, or a union, concerning an alleged breach of the collective agreement, an alleged injustice, and / or an alleged breach of a relevant statute, e.g., the Employment Standards Act. The procedure for handling grievances is defined in the agreement.

Probation: A period at the beginning of employment that usually is governed by specific clauses of a collective agreement. A probationary employee may have fewer rights and benefits and usually can be terminated with less cause than “permanent” employees. Employers justify this by saying that they need to evaluate whether the employee is suitable for continuing employment. Laurentian’s probationary period is typically five years.

Terms and Conditions: Conditions pertaining to the workers’ job environment, such as hours of work, safety, paid holidays and vacations, possibilities of advancement, etc. Many of these are included in collective agreements and subject to collective bargaining.

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Strikes & Lockouts

Strike Vote: A vote conducted among members of a union to determine whether to give their union’s Board the right to call a strike if collective bargaining is not successful. In Ontario, such votes are mandatory before strikes. They must be held by secret ballot and can be held no more than 30 days before a collective agreement expires. A favourable strike vote increases a union’s leverage in bargaining, potentially breaking a bargaining impasse, but does not necessarily lead to a strike.

Strike: A cessation of work, a refusal to work by employees for the purpose of compelling an employer to agree to terms or conditions of employment. Usually the last stage of collective bargaining when all other means have failed. Except in special cases, strikes are legal when a collective agreement is not in force (see “Conciliation” and “No Board” above). In a rotating strike, only some of the employees stop work at any given time, each group taking its turn. A sympathy strike is a strike by workers not directly involved in a labour dispute – an attempt to show labour solidarity and bring pressure on an employer in a labour dispute. A wildcat strike is one that takes place during the term of a collective agreement, therefore violating both collective agreement and law. Such strikes are often not organised by the union officers.

Lockout: Tactic used by an employer to get a settlement on his/her own terms by refusing work to employees or by closing.

Strike-breakers / Scabs: Persons who continue to work or who do the work of workers who are on strike. By filling their jobs, strike-breakers may weaken or break the strike. For example, if your lab assistants are on strike and you cover their labs and do their grading, you are strike-breaking.

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Union Organisation

Local: The Local is the basic unit of union organization. Trade unions are divided into a number of locals for the purpose of local administration. These locals have their own by-laws and elect their own officers. They are usually responsible for the negotiation and day-to-day administration of the collective agreements covering their members. LUFA is a Local of the National Union of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (NUCAUT).

By the same token, LUFA itself has three locals attached to it: Huntington University, Thorneloe University and the University of Sudbury.

Constitution and By-laws: Documents that establish a union’s organisation, decision-making structures, and accepted procedures.

Per Capita Tax: Regular payments by a local to its regional, national or international labour organisations to which it is affiliated. LUFA pays $0.72 per member monthly to the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) through the National Union of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (NUCAUT).

Steward: A union activist who represents a specific group of members and the union. Stewards are usually part of the workforce they represent. LUFA’s Constitution and By-laws provide for 16 stewards across the University, including the three locals.

Board: The body charged with day-to-day decision-making for a union. It usually comprises the union’s elected Officers, plus stewards and is accountable to the membership.

Executive Committee. LUFA’s Executive Committee is made up of the union’s five officers and it is accountable to the Board.

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More info?

Credits: Thanks to the Canadian Union of Public Employees for ideas and content.