Collective Agreement

There are many items covered in a contract between a union and an employer. The contract is known as a collective agreement and it’s not unusual for it to be 60 to l00 pages long. While all of the items in a collective agreement are important some of the more critical items are shown below:

Grievance Procedure:

The Trade Union Act requires that the employer and the union include a grievance procedure in the contract. If the employer violates any aspect of the contract or, disciplines an employee without just cause, the employee can file a grievance through the union representative. With the help of the union, an employee can try to work the problem out with the employer. If the employee can’t reach a satisfactory resolution, the dispute can be referred to an independent arbitrator. The employer must pay their own costs and the union will pay for the employee’s representation and costs. The arbitrator will hear the evidence and make a binding decision. Employer grievances and dispute resolution procedures have no legal status under the labour laws of the province.

Wage Schedule:

Wages are usually set out in the contract along with any terms necessary to reach a particular wage level (years of service, type of work, etc.). The contract will also include when negotiated pay increases are distributed. Usually a collective agreement will define what constitutes overtime and overtime pay in addition to holiday pay, call out, and stand-by pay (if appropriate).

Job Security:

A collective agreement provides employees with job security by clearly stating wages, wage increases, and seniority rules. Specifically, seniority rules ensure that employees with longer service records are given preference over more junior employees. In addition, many contracts include provisions requiring retraining and severance packages when appropriate.

Hours of Work:

Hours of work is often a contentious issue between employees and management. Employees want stability and management wants flexibility. The contract will attempt to define, as much as reasonably possible, the number of hours you work and when you work them. The collective agreement will also define how shift changes are made and how much notice is required. Usually an agreement will also contain provisions for days of rest and how many weekends you get off.

Benefit Package:

A benefit package may include some or all of the following items: medical coverage (including drugs and vision care), dental care, life insurance, long term disability insurance, pension, or an RRSP plan. Once you have these benefits secured in a contract no changes without a member vote can be made. Other benefits provided through the government include workers’ compensation and employment insurance.

Health and Safety:

The Occupational Health and Safety Act sets out rules with respect to workplace safety and joint Occupational Health and Safety Committees. In a union environment, employees sit on these committees and work in conjunction with the employer and the union to provide information and resources to other employees.