Q: What is a collective agreement?
A: A collective agreement is a written contract of employment covering a group of employees who are represented by a trade union. This agreement contains provisions governing the terms and conditions of employment. It also contains the rights, privileges and duties of the YRDSB, the D16 OSSTF and the employees.
Q: What is collective bargaining?
A: Collective bargaining is a process in which D16 OSSTF and YRDSB negotiate the renewal of a previous collective agreement. They usually focus on such issues as wages, working conditions, grievance procedures and fringe benefits.
Q: How does the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act (SBCBA) change the negotiating process?
A: The SBCBA established two tiered bargaining: central and local. The central table consists of representatives of OSSTF, the Government, and the Ontario Public School Boards Association (OPSBA). The first step in the new bargaining process is for the central table to determine the issues to be bargained centrally, then any other issues may be bargained locally. No central item may be bargained or revisited locally, and a central agreement applies to all Boards and Districts. Our collective agreement will consist of both a central agreement and a local agreement.
Q: How are negotiations for a collective agreement begun?
A: Under the SBCBA, either the union or the Boards may give notice to bargain centrally. Local notice to brgain is deemed given witin 90 days of the expiry of the contract. The first central meeting must occur within 15 days of notice being given.
Q: What happens if, during negotiations, the parties cannot agree on the terms of a collective agreement?
A: Centrally, either the Union or OPSBA may ask the Ontario Minister of Labour to appoint a conciliation officer. This officer will then try to help them reach an agreement. Locally either YRDSB or D16 OSSTF may ask for conciliation.
Q: What is conciliation?
A: Conciliation is a process by which the negotiating parties 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 of Labour. 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.
Q: How do you request the appointment of a conciliation officer?
A: The applicant must complete the Request for Appointment of Conciliation Officer form and forward it to Dispute Resolution Services
Q: What if the parties cannot reach agreement in conciliation?
A: 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 negotiating parties (centrally, the Union and OPSBA; locally, D16 OSSTF and YRDSB) that he or she "does not consider it advisable to appoint a conciliation board". This notice is known colloquially as the "no board" report. [Conciliation boards are exceedingly rare. They have not been appointed in recent years.]
Q: What further assistance is available to the bargaining parties after a "no board" report is issued?
A: If the parties have not reached a settlement in the conciliation stage, the Ministry of Labour 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.
Q: What is a strike?
A: A strike is a collective action by employees to stop or curtail work. Section 1 (1) of the Labour Relations Act, 1995 defines a strike as 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 “work to rule” or a slow-down or other concerted activity on the part of employees designed to restrict or limit output.
Q: What is a lock-out?
A: A lock-out occurs when a Board/enployer closes one or more schools, suspends work or refuses to continue employing a number of employees during a labour dispute.
Section 1 (1) of the Labour Relations Act, 1995 defines a lock-out as 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 this 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.
Q: When are the parties in a legal position to strike or lock-out?
A: There are several preconditions to get into a legal position to strike or lock-out:
- 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's legal to strike or lock-out beginning on the 17th day after the minister mails the "no board" notice. For example, if the notice was mailed on August 1st, the parties can legally strike or lock out on August 18th. There can be some confusion about this because the act states that the period is 14 days after the release of a notice. The notice is not deemed to have been released, however, until the second day after it was mailed. This extends the period to 16 days, and since they must be 'clear' days, it means that a strike cannot legally start until the beginning of the 17th day. (See Sections 79(2)(b) and 122(2)(a) of the Labour Relations Act, 1995
Q: Must there be a strike vote before a strike can take place?
A:Employees cannot lawfully strike or work to rule 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. A strike vote must be by secret ballot and all people eligible to vote must have ample opportunity to do so. Under the SBCBA two strike votes are required: one central and one local.