Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation
District 16
York Region
District 16

110 Pony Dr., Unit 6
Newmarket, ON L3Y 7B6

Tel 905-836-5954
Tel 416-324-3277
Fax 905-836-6210

Bargaining Q&A

Questions and Answers Relative to the 2012 Bargaining Process & the Provincial Discussion Table

Q: What does PDT stand for?
A: Provincial Discussion Table

Q: What is the purpose of the PDT?
A: To create a framework between the Ministry of Education and the Education Sector Unions to enable them to bargain locally to reach new collective agreements.

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 a 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 are negotiations for a collective agreement begun?
A: Either party may give notice to bargain:

  • within the 90 days before the agreement is due to expire, or
  • during any other period set out in the agreement. (April 1 in our case)

In either case, the union and the employer must meet within 15 days from the giving of notice, unless they agree to some other time period. (See Sections 16, 17 and 59 of the Labour Relations Act, 1995). 

Q: What happens if, during negotiations, YRDSB and D16 OSSTF cannot agree on the terms of a collective agreement?
A: Either YRDSB or D16 OSSTF may ask the Ontario Minister of Labour to appoint a conciliation officer. This officer will then try to help them reach an agreement (See Section 18 of the Labour Relations Act, 1995).

Q: What is conciliation?
A: Conciliation is a process by which YRDSB or D16 OSSTF 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. 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 YRDSB or D16 OSSTF 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 D16 OSSTF and YRDSB that he or she "does not consider it advisable to appoint a conciliation board" (section 21(b) of the act). This notice is known colloquially as the "no board". [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" gets issued?
A: If the parties have not reached a settlement in the conciliation stage, the ministry 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 YRDSB 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.

Q: Can YRDSB request a vote of employees on the employer's last offer?
A: Any time before or after the commencement of a strike or lock-out, YRDSB may request that the Ontario Minister of Labour direct a vote of the employees in the affected bargaining unit to accept or reject the employer's last offer on all matters remaining in dispute. Upon receiving this request, the minister is obligated to direct such a vote. Neither the request to the minister nor the holding of the vote affect the time periods set out in the act. (See Section 42 of the Labour Relations Act, 1995).

 Copyright © OSSTF/FEESO 2015