Complaints Under Section 190 of the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act
The purpose of this guide is to provide parties representing themselves with information on the process for presenting a complaint under section 190 of the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act (the FPSLRA) and for hearings before the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board (the FPSLREB). This guide is only an informal tool, which should be used in conjunction with the FPSLRA and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Board Regulations (the Regulations). The FPSLRA can be accessed on the Department of Justice’s Web site at http://laws.justice.gc.ca. Both the FPSLRA and the Regulations can be accessed on the FPSLREB’s Web site at www.fpslreb-crtespf.gc.ca, under Legislation and Forms.
What is the FPSLREB
The FPSLREB is an independent quasi-judicial tribunal responsible for administering the complaint system under the FPSLRA. Its commitment to resolve labour relations issues in an impartial manner benefits Canadians through the smooth delivery of government programs and services. One of the goals of the FPSLREB is to ensure that complaints of unfair labour practices are examined fairly and impartially.
Who chairs the hearings?
Hearings relating to complaints are heard by the FPSLREB, sitting in a panel of one or more members.
Filing a complaint
What types of complaints can I file before the FPSLREB?
Complaints can be filed under section 190 of the FPSLRA under one of the following alleged infractions:
- Failing to comply with a duty to observe terms and conditions of employment;
- Failing to observe a duty to bargain in good faith;
- Failing to observe a duty to implement provisions of the collective agreement;
- Failing to observe a duty to implement provisions of the arbitral award; or
- Committing an unfair labour practice.
For more details, see section 190 of the FPSLRA at http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/P-33.3/section-190.html or see Appendix 1.
Note: As per section 185 of the FPSLRA, an “unfair labour practice” (e.g.: discrimination on the basis of membership with a bargaining agent, exercise of a right under the FPSLRA, etc.) means anything that is prohibited by
- Subsection 186(1) or (2);
- Section 187 or 188; or
- Subsection 189(1) of the FPSLRA.
Can I represent myself?
Complainants wishing to file a complaint before the FPSLREB under section 190 of the FPSLRA may represent themselves without help from a bargaining agent or lawyer.
How do I file a complaint before the FPSLREB?
Complainants wishing to file a complaint under section 190 of the FPSLRA must do so pursuant to section 2 of the Regulations, which describes the procedure for filing initiating documents with the FPSLREB.
A complaint must be filed in duplicate with the FPSLREB. To do so, the complainant shall use form 16 : COMPLAINT UNDER SECTION 190 OF THE PSLRA. It is available on the FPSLREB’s Web site at:
The written complaint should include:
- The name, mailing and email addresses, and phone and fax numbers of the complainant;
- The name and mailing address of the respondent;
- A short summary of the measures taken by the employer that resulted in the complaint, specifying dates and the names of the persons in question;
- The steps taken by the complainant or on his/her behalf to rectify the situation;
- The corrective action or order requested under subsection 192(1) of the PSLRA; and
- Other matters relevant to the complaint.
Time for making a complaint
As per subsection 190 (2) of the Act, the complaint "…must be made to the Board not later than 90 days after the date on which the complainant knew, or in the Board's opinion ought to have known, of the action or circumstances giving rise to the complaint."
Note: The 90 days referred to in the Act are calendar days.
The Act makes no provision for extension of this deadline.
What happens after a complaint has been filed with the FPSLREB?
Opening the file
When the FPSLREB receives a complaint, a letter is sent to each of the parties acknowledging receipt of the complaint and advising the respondent of its opportunity to reply. The acknowledgement letter also provides the parties with information required for continuing the process, such as the FPSLREB’s file number, and instructions on the next step. It is important that the FPSLREB’s file number be used on all subsequent documents and correspondence.
Based on the persons named in the complaint, the FPSLREB will create a list of parties, intervenors and other persons who may be affected by the proceeding (the “Board’s list”). The FPSLREB will send copies of the complaint to the persons whose names appear on this list. The FPSLREB will also send to everybody on that list a copy of the Board’s list.
- Please note that any document submitted subsequently to the complaint shall be filed with the FPSLREB. The party filing a subsequent document (except for Applications for a summons) shall provide a copy to every person whose name appears on the Board’s list, unless he or she has notified the FPSLREB in writing that he or she does not wish to receive a copy of subsequent documents.
Every complaint is automatically referred to mediation; however, mediation remains voluntary. If a party declines mediation in writing, or if the conflict cannot be resolved through this approach, the Chairperson may refer the dispute to a formal hearing.
A party has 15 calendar days to notify in writing the Executive Director of its intention not to participate in mediation. A party’s notice of intention is a subsequent document and must be copied to every person whose name appears on the Board’s list.
Even if the parties refuse mediation at the outset, they may at any point request that the matter be referred to mediation. If the parties jointly file with the Executive Director a request to have the conflict referred to mediation, the complaint will in most cases be immediately put in abeyance and a mediation date scheduled.
Preparing for the hearing
As a rule, the process for a hearing before the FPSLREB is the same as that before a court, though somewhat less formal. The parties may file supporting documents as evidence and examine and cross-examine witnesses. Hearings give them an opportunity to present their arguments in order to establish their allegations.
Scheduling the hearing
The FPSLREB usually tentatively schedules hearing dates four months in advance. The parties will be contacted to confirm their availability.
Notice of hearing
When the Chairperson refers a complaint to a hearing, a notice of hearing is sent to each person whose name appears on the Board’s list, informing him or her of the date, time and place where the hearing will be held. A notice of hearing will normally be sent out one month prior to the hearing date.
Deferral and withdrawal
A hearing, for exceptional circumstances, may be postponed if either or both parties believe that they are unable to attend. In such a case, a postponement must be requested in writing with the FPSLREB, and the reasoning for the request must be provided. The requesting party must send a copy of the request to all persons whose names appear on the Board’s list. Only in exceptional circumstances (e.g. a serious injury on the morning of the hearing) can the request be made with the FPSLREB panel.
The opinion of the other party will be obtained before a decision is made whether to postpone the hearing, and all persons whose names appear on the Board’s list will be informed of that decision.
Sometimes, the parties settle the complaint among themselves before the hearing. It is then up to the complainant to inform in writing the FPSLREB that the dispute has been resolved and is being withdrawn, or is in the process of being resolved. If the hearing has started or is about to start (on that same day), the parties should inform the FPSLREB panel who is hearing the case about the withdrawal before informing the FPSLREB in writing.
English or French?
Hearings may take place in English or French. However, they are normally held in the language in which the complaint was filed. Simultaneous interpretation services, when needed, are provided by the FPSLREB, but the parties must notify in writing the FPSLREB of such a requirement at least three weeks ahead of time. The FPSLREB assumes all of the costs associated with this service.
At the written request of the complainant, and with sufficient notice, the language of the hearing can be other than the language of the complaint (i.e. the language in which it was filed).
A party that wants to call a witness to testify and thinks that the witness will attend only if legally required to do so can request (in writing and in detail) a summons. It is up to this party to explain why this witness is essential to the presentation of its case. If the FPSLREB issues a summons, the party that intends to summon the witness must inform the witness that he or she is being called to testify at a hearing by serving him or her with the document sufficiently in advance of the hearing. All costs related to the service of a summons are paid by the party requesting the summons.
Furthermore, witnesses who are summoned by a party are entitled to compensation if they attend the hearing (see section 41 of the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board Act). It is up to the party that summoned them to pay this compensation. The party must ensure that the amount is equal to that to which the witnesses would be entitled if summoned to attend before the Federal Court.
As well, the party that summons a witness must pay ahead of time, where applicable and in accordance with the Federal Courts Rules, any travel expenses that the witness may incur.
The parties are responsible for notifying in writing the FPSLREB sufficiently in advance of any needs or services that they will require before or during the hearing (for instance, that the building where the hearing is to take place be accessible to people with mobility disabilities).
Technical and procedural issues
The hearings are not normally recorded, and no minutes are prepared. Hence, it is important that the parties take notes. The FPSLREB panel will however take notes of the evidence and submissions. The notes taken by the FPSLREB panel are not accessible by the parties or the general public.
Swearing an oath
A witness who is called to testify at a hearing must swear an oath or solemnly affirm to tell the truth for his/her testimony to be admitted as evidence. Individuals asked to testify may swear on the Bible or another sacred text or object, or promise to tell the truth.
Please advise the FPSLREB in writing at least two weeks in advance if a specific sacred text is required for the hearing. Witnesses may also bring their own sacred text or object.
Failure to attend
If a person fails to attend a hearing or any subsequent session of that hearing, the FPSLREB panel may continue the hearing and decide on the matter without further notice to that person.
If a party raises an objection at the hearing, the FPSLREB panel will ask the other party for its position on the objection. It will then give the objecting party an opportunity to respond to the other party’s position before rendering a decision on that matter. The decision on some objections may be reserved by the FPSLREB panel and dealt with in the final decision.
An application may be made to the FPSLREB panel at a hearing to have it render a decision on an issue concerning the procedure which does not touch on the substance of the case. An application may be presented in writing or, more commonly, orally at the hearing. When a party files such an application, it must provide its reasons for doing so. The other party then provides its position on the reasons, to which the party making the application then responds.
For instance, an application could be made to have the following day’s hearing start later than indicated on the notice of hearing.
If one of the parties contests the FPSLREB panel’s jurisdiction for hearing a complaint, after considering relevant evidence and submissions, the FPSLREB panel must be satisfied that it has jurisdiction before ruling on the complaint. The FPSLREB panel may also reserve decision on the question of jurisdiction and proceed with the hearing, based on the merits of the case (a common practice for jurisdiction-type questions).
The conduct of the hearing
Proper behaviour is expected from the participants. As a sign of respect, when the FPSLREB panel enters or exits the room, it is customary, however not required, for participants to rise. As well, special places are assigned to the participants in the room depending on their role in the case (complainant, visitor, witness, etc.) (see Appendix 2).
Opening statement and preliminary matters
At the beginning of a hearing, the FPSLREB panel makes an opening statement. It takes this opportunity to explain the reason why the parties are there and the basic rules for the hearing. It then asks the parties whether they have any preliminary questions that they would like to bring to the panel’s attention. This is when the parties can raise an objection concerning the FPSLREB panel’s jurisdiction for hearing the complaint, request the exclusion of witnesses from the hearing or request modifications or clarifications on the conduct of the hearing.
Afterwards, each party may make an opening statement, during which it can provide a summary or overview of what it intends to prove and how it intends to do so and the remedy or relief sought. The order of presentation of the opening statements is the same as that of the presentation of evidence and the examination (see section on Presentation of evidence and examination of witnesses). It should be noted that the party that proceeds second may wait until it presents its case to make its opening statement, in other words, before its evidence is presented.
Presentation of evidence and examination of witnesses
Generally, the complainant will proceed first with the presentation of his or her evidence. However, in complaints involving a failure to comply with subsection 186(2), the employer is the one with the burden of proof and will proceed with presenting its evidence first (see subsection 191(3) of the FPSLRA).
The party that presents its evidence first is automatically the first one to examine its witnesses. During its examination-in-chief, this party shall aim to present all of the information that will help support its case. Then, the other party examines the first party’s witnesses: this is the cross-examination. It will then try to contradict the evidence presented or demonstrate that the merits of the case are unfounded. After the cross-examination, the party that was the first to examine its witnesses will have an opportunity to re-examine its witness to address any new point raised during the cross-examination. Then, the other party will have a chance to examine its own witnesses to present its evidence and, as before, this will be followed by a cross-examination and re-examination.
It should be noted that all persons, including the complainants who wish to testify, must swear an oath or make a solemn affirmation to tell the truth.
How do I present my evidence and examine my witnesses?
Essentially, the presentation of evidence involves examining witnesses and filing documents or items applicable to the dispute. Documents and other items presented as evidence are generally provided through a witness or with the other party’s agreement. A copy of such documents must be provided to each of the parties, to the witness, and to the FPSLREB panel. The documents must be filed in both official languages if they exist in both languages. To the extent possible, documents should be in their original form and not edited.
It is not necessary to present form 16: COMPLAINT UNDER SECTION 190 OF THE FPSLRA as evidence, as this document is already on file.
It is important that questions asked during the examination-in-chief of a witness be kept short and open to enable the witness to be free to recount the facts relative to the matter. This means that leading questions, where the witness is guided towards an answer, should not be used. However, there is nothing to prevent the parties from asking leading questions at the beginning of a witness’ examination-in-chief to establish the latter’s identity or during cross-examination to focus the witness’ answers.
How do I prepare my arguments?
When parties present their arguments, they can also present, in support of their case, the applicable case law (i.e., decisions from the courts), previous decisions of the FPSLREB or its predecessor tribunals (i.e., the Public Service Labour Relations Board and the Public Service Staffing Relations Board), or decisions of adjudicators. Research is very important in preparing the arguments. The parties may consult the FPSLREB’s Web site, where they can find its previous decisions or those of its predecessors as well as those of adjudicators, the different statutes under its jurisdiction and other useful links.
During the presentation of arguments, the parties speak in the same order as for the presentation of evidence. By this time, the FPSLREB panel knows all of the elements or relevant facts of the dispute as they were presented and hears the parties’ arguments.
This is when the parties refer to previous decisions, statutes or case law to support their arguments.
Federal Court decisions are available online at:
The FPSLREB’s (or its predecessors’) decisions are available at:
If a party wishes to refer to a previous decision, statute or case law, it must ensure that a copy is provided to each party and to the FPSLREB panel.
End of Hearing
After the parties have presented their arguments, the hearing will come to a close.
If more time is needed to continue the hearing, the FPSLREB panel will specify the date, time, place and terms of its continuance.
What happens after the hearing?
The hearing gives the FPSLREB panel an opportunity to hear the parties’ arguments, submissions, and all the evidence required to understand the dispute. The FPSLREB panel must then render its decision in writing. Normally, the FPSLREB panel tries to render its decision within four months of the hearing.
The FPSLREB's Policy on Openness and Privacy explains why information filed with the FPSLREB is generally available to the public and why it could be reported in a decision posted on the FPSLREB website and distributed to publishers.
|Complaints||190. (1) The Board must examine and inquire into any complaint made to it that
|Time for making complaint||(2) Subject to subsections (3) and (4), a complaint under subsection (1) must be made to the Board not later than 90 days after the date on which the complainant knew, or in the Board's opinion ought to have known, of the action or circumstances giving rise to the complaint.|
|Limitation on complaints against employee organizations||(3) Subject to subsection (4), no complaint may be made to the Board under subsection (1) on the ground that an employee organization or any person acting on behalf of one has failed to comply with paragraph 188(b) or (c) unless
|Exception||(4) The Board may, on application to it by a complainant, determine a complaint in respect of an alleged failure by an employee organization to comply with paragraph 188(b) or (c) that has not been presented as a grievance or appeal to the employee organization, if the Board is satisfied that
Provisions of the FPSLRA referred to in section 190
|Continuation of terms and conditions||56. After being notified of an application for certification made in accordance with this Part, the employer may not, except under a collective agreement or with the consent of the Board, alter the terms and conditions of employment that are applicable to the employees in the proposed bargaining unit and that may be included in a collective agreement until
|Duty to bargain in good faith||106. After the notice to bargain collectively is given, the bargaining agent and the employer must, without delay, and in any case within 20 days after the notice is given unless the parties otherwise agree,
|Duty to observe terms and conditions||107. Unless the parties otherwise agree, and subject to section 132, after the notice to bargain collectively is given, each term and condition of employment applicable to the employees in the bargaining unit to which the notice relates that may be included in a collective agreement, and that is in force on the day the notice is given, is continued in force and must be observed by the employer, the bargaining agent for the bargaining unit and the employees in the bargaining unit until a collective agreement is entered into in respect of that term or condition or
|Two-tier bargaining||110. (1) Subject to the other provisions of this Part, the employer, the bargaining agent for a bargaining unit and the deputy head for a particular department named in Schedule I to the Financial Administration Act or for another portion of the federal public administration named in Schedule IV to that Act may jointly elect to engage in collective bargaining respecting any terms and conditions of employment in respect of any employees in the bargaining unit who are employed in that department or other portion of the federal public administration.|
|More than one department or portion||(2) Collective bargaining under subsection (1) may relate to more than one department or other portion of the federal public administration if each of the deputy heads concerned elects to engage in the collective bargaining.|
|Duty to bargain in good faith||(3) The parties who elect to bargain collectively under subsection (1) must, without delay after the election,
|Duty to implement provisions of the collective agreement||117. Subject to the appropriation by or under the authority of Parliament of money that may be required by the employer, the parties must implement the provisions of a collective agreement
|Duty to observe terms and conditions||132. Unless the parties otherwise agree, every term and condition of employment applicable to employees in a bargaining unit in respect of which a notice to bargain collectively is given that may be included in a collective agreement and that is in force on the day the notice is given remains in force in respect of any employee who occupies a position that is identified in an essential services agreement and must be observed by the employer, the bargaining agent for the bargaining unit and the employee until a collective agreement is entered into.|
|Duty to implement provisions of the arbitral award||157. Subject to the appropriation by or under the authority of Parliament of any money that may be required by the employer, the parties must implement the provisions of the arbitral award within 90 days after the day on which the award becomes binding on them or within any longer period that the parties may agree to or that the Board, on application by either party, may set.|
|Meaning of "unfair labour practice"||185. In this Division, "unfair labour practice" means anything that is prohibited by subsection 186(1) or (2), section 187 or 188 or subsection 189(1).|
|Unfair labour practices -- employer||186. (1) Neither the employer nor a person who occupies a managerial or confidential position, whether or not the person is acting on behalf of the employer, shall
|Unfair labour practices -- employer||(2) Neither the employer nor a person acting on behalf of the employer, nor a person who occupies a managerial or confidential position, whether or not that person is acting on behalf of the employer, shall
|Exception||(3) The employer or a person does not commit an unfair labour practice under paragraph (1)(a) by reason only of
|Exception||(4) The employer or a person does not commit an unfair labour practice under paragraph (1)(b)
|Exception||(5) The employer or a person does not commit an unfair labour practice under paragraph (1)(a) or (b) by reason only that the employer or person expresses their point of view, so long as they do not use coercion, intimidation, threats, promises or undue influence.|
|Exception||(6) The employer or a person does not commit an unfair labour practice under any of paragraphs (1)(a) or (b) or (2)(a) to (c) by reason only of any act or thing done or omitted in relation to a person who occupies, or is proposed to occupy, a managerial or confidential position.|
|Unfair representation by bargaining agent||187. No employee organization that is certified as the bargaining agent for a bargaining unit, and none of its officers and representatives, shall act in a manner that is arbitrary or discriminatory or that is in bad faith in the representation of any employee in the bargaining unit.|
|Unfair labour practices -- employee organizations||188. No employee organization and no officer or representative of an employee organization or other person acting on behalf of an employee organization shall
|Unfair labour practices -- persons||189. (1) Subject to subsection (2), no person shall seek by intimidation or coercion to compel an employee
|Exception||(2) A person does not commit an unfair labour practice referred to in subsection (1) by reason of any act or thing done or omitted in relation to a person who occupies, or is proposed to occupy, a managerial or confidential position.|
|Declaration or authorization of strike prohibited||194. (1) No employee organization shall declare or authorize a strike in respect of a bargaining unit, and no officer or representative of an employee organization shall counsel or procure the declaration or authorization of a strike in respect of a bargaining unit or the participation of employees in such a strike, if
|Essential services||(2) No employee organization shall declare or authorize a strike the effect of which is or would be to involve the participation of any employee who occupies a position that is necessary under an essential services agreement for the employer to provide essential services, and no officer or representative of an employee organization shall counsel or procure the participation of such employees in a strike.|