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Effective Collective Bargaining and Negotiations

Employers facing a Union organization campaign can be subject to short deadlines and uncertainty. After a Union has been certified to represent a group of workers, the next step is to create a collective bargaining agreement between the Union and the Employer. This agreement will govern the working relationship between the Employer and its unionized workers as well as the Union itself. The collective bargaining process functions as a series of contract negotiation meetings. If the parties fail to reach an agreement the consequences can include a worker’s strike, a lockout, or other disruptions to business operations. Effective collective bargaining and negotiations become a critical skills when it comes to reaching an agreement efficiently.

Since collective bargaining is one of the most important steps in a unionized workplace, it’s essential for an Employer to prepare well in advance and get legal advice on potential contract terms. Collective bargaining will normally take place within one year of certification of the Union as the bargaining agent for the unionized workers. The Union will usually initiate the collective bargaining process by delivering a written notice of intent to bargain to make a collective agreement.

What Should Employers Know When It Comes to Effective Collective Bargaining and Negotiations?

When preparing for collective bargaining and negotiations, Employers should ensure that they understand the following:

  • The likely interests of the Union;
  • Normal terms for any similar unionized employers in their industry;
  • The concessions they can afford to make;
  • The essential items the Employer needs in the collective agreement; and
  • How long the business can afford a strike or a lockout if negotiations fail.

The initial collective bargaining meeting should be used as an opportunity for both sides to gather information on the goals of the other side. The Union will likely take this opportunity to set out their position on the terms they want to be included in the collective bargaining agreement. Employers should adopt the best practice of getting to some agreement on the “easy” issues first. Starting negotiations with the contentious issues can erode goodwill between the parties and create unnecessary friction that will hinder the agreement as a whole.

Part of the collective bargaining and negotiation process will include the exchange of information. As part of their duty to bargain in good faith with the goal of reaching a collective bargaining agreement, the Employer may be required to disclose information about confirmed plans for the business. This wouldn’t necessarily apply to all ideas about future opportunities but both sides have the obligation to disclose relevant information to facilitate the bargaining process. This disclosure should be used as opportunity to exchange information that helps the parties get to an effective deal.

What If Key Issues Aren’t Resolved?

If negotiations stall and the parties can’t agree on some key issues, Employers should set those issues aside and focus on those that are less contentious. This step will help to maintain the goodwill necessary to get to a resolution and contentious issues can be addressed in other ways. The Ontario Labour Relations Board can make conciliators available to act as an impartial third party to assist with resolving the differences between the Union and Employer. Parties may also seek the assistance of a mediator or an arbitrator to resolve key proposed terms of the collective agreement.

Effective collective bargaining and negotiation requires Employers to be mindful of what they need, what they can give, and the implications of any proposed contract terms. Considering the long-term implications of a collective bargaining agreement, it is important for Employers to retain competent legal advice to navigate specific terms and their effects. Legal counsel should be able to work effectively with a cross-functional team from your business to achieve best results.

Contact Us

If you are an employer anticipating collective bargaining with your workers, our team of experienced labour lawyers at Achkar Law can help. Contact us by phone toll-free at 1 (800)771-7882 or email us at [email protected] and we would be happy to assist.

If you are a small or medium-sized company looking for full-service support with a same-day response, visit our CLO Program page for our strategic solutions.

Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to serve as or should be construed as legal advice and is only to provide general information. It is in no way particular to your case and should not be relied on in any way. No portion or use of this blog will establish a lawyer-client relationship with the author or any related party. Should you require legal advice for your particular situation, fill out the contact form, call (800) 771-7882 or email [email protected].