The Collective Bargaining Agreement -
a Canadian Perspective

The desired outcome of collective bargaining is the collective bargaining agreement (collective agreement) which forms a legal contract between the parties. This collective agreement sets out the agreed upon rules that would regulate certain aspects of the management - union relationship in the workplace over a given time period (usually one to three years).

Why only certain rules and not all rules?

The answer is that there some workplace rules that are management's right to unilaterally make.

Scope of Negotiated Agreement

The negotiated agreement covers a wide range of issues, covering both:

  • substantive, and
  • procedural issues.

In negotiating the agreement the parties have to take into consideration the Employment Standards Act or Labour Standards Code of the applicable provinces, which sets out the minimum protection of employment.

The parties are free to negotiate any of the employment provisions of the Employment Standards Act, but they cannot negotiate lower standards that those provided for in the Act. Also, those provisions of the Act that are negotiated and form part of the agreement, are now referred to, in place of the corresponding provisions of the Act.

In those areas where there are no provisions in the agreement, then the provisions in the relevant Employment Standards Act would apply.

Substantive Agreement

The substantive agreement refers to that part of the agreement that defines the terms and conditions of employment covering, hours of work, hourly wage rate, leave and vacation pay, overtime rates, bonuses and other related matters.

Procedural Agreement

The procedural agreement aspects of the agreement deals with the procedures regulating the terms of the relationship between the employer and the union. It defines the methods for dealing with disciplinary, grievances, and dispute issues.

Disputes Regarding Collective Bargaining Agreements

Whenever a dispute arises regarding the application or interpretation of any of the terms of the bargaining agreement, then grievance procedures as detailed in the agreement are to be followed.

When there is a dispute over the interpretation, a grievance is filed and if the issues cannot not resolved by the parties using the grievance process, then the case is referred to adjudication, where a neutral third party hears the case and then passes a decision that becomes binding on both parties to the grievance.

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