Fact Sheet on Collective Bargaining

The Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board (FPSLREB) is responsible for administering the collective bargaining regimes within the federal public service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and in Parliament that are covered by the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act (FPSLRA) and the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act (PESRA). The FPSLREB also administers the collective bargaining regimes covered by the Yukon Education Labour Relations Act and the Yukon Public Service Labour Relations Act.

On November 26, 2018, an act was passed, re-establishing the collective bargaining regimes that existed under the legislation before December 12, 2013, except with respect to bargaining units for which an arbitration board commenced proceedings before November 26, 2018.

Approximately 200 000 employees in 100 bargaining units are covered by the collective bargaining and other provisions of the FPSLRA. That Act provides a choice of two methods for resolving disputes, arbitration or conciliation. Conciliation recognizes that employees in a bargaining unit have the right to strike under certain conditions, which is why it is often termed the “conciliation/strike route”. A bargaining agent may choose arbitration or conciliation for resolving disputes that could arise during collective bargaining for a bargaining unit. The bargaining agent can change its choice from one bargaining round to the next.

Regardless of the dispute resolution method the bargaining agent chose, the parties may request a mediator to help them with their negotiations. At any time, if requested or on his or her initiative, the FPSLREB’s chairperson may appoint a mediator to confer with the parties and to promote a settlement.

If the bargaining agent chose arbitration as the dispute resolution method, either party may request that an arbitration board be established. The FPSLREB’s chairperson establishes them, and they consist of either one person or a panel of three. The FPSLREB’s chairperson must inform the arbitration board in writing of the matters in dispute that it must determine. In most cases, the parties will have agreed beforehand to many terms and conditions of employment before resorting to arbitration. When conducting proceedings and rendering its decision, an arbitration board must consider a number of factors, including the conditions of employment in similar occupations outside the public service, the need to maintain appropriate relationships between classification levels in the public service, and the state of the Canadian economy and of the government’s fiscal circumstances. An arbitral award is binding on the employer, the bargaining agent, and the employees in the bargaining unit and forms a supplement to the collective agreement.

However, if the parties cannot reach an agreement, and the bargaining agent’s choice of dispute resolution is “conciliation/strike”, the Minister may establish a public interest commission (PIC) on the FPSLREB chairperson’s recommendation. A PIC may be composed of one person or a panel of three. Its chairperson is selected from a list of candidates that the FPSLREB’s chairperson has prepared following consultation with the parties. Within 30 days of being established, the PIC must submit its recommendations to the FPSLREB’s chairperson, who will then make the report public.

If the PIC’s recommendations do not bring about a settlement to the dispute, the FPSLRA requires that a secret-ballot strike vote be held before a strike may be called. All the employees in the bargaining unit have the right, and must be given the opportunity, to vote. The bargaining agent may authorize or declare a strike only within the 60 days following the vote, provided it received the support of the majority of the employees in the bargaining unit.

As for the PESRA, it provides arbitration as the only method to resolve collective bargaining disputes; parliamentary employees have no right to strike. When collective bargaining becomes difficult, either party may request the assistance of a mediator. In response, the FPSLREB’s chairperson may appoint a conciliator to confer with the parties and promote a settlement.

When it performs its functions under Yukon legislation, the FPSLREB acts as the Yukon Public Service Labour Relations Board and the Yukon Teachers Labour Relations Board, respectively.