Chapter 8: Collective Agreement Administration

Collective Agreement


  • The role of the collective agreement in unionized workplaces
  • The common layout of a collective agreement
  • The types of clauses typically found in collective agreements
  • Why management and labour may prefer certain wording in collective agreements and
  • The importance and meaning of collective agreement language

Role and Layout of a Collective Agreement

  • The collective agreement is the agreement between the union rep all workers included in the bargaining unit and the employer
  • The role of the agreement is to establish clear rules and procedures governing both workplace practices and the relationship between the parties
  • Most agreements include
  • Cover page

Articles - A larger section of a collective agreement (ie. Article 1)

Sections: or Clause

A specific section of an article (ie. 1.1)

  • Appendix

Letters of Understanding - Letter between the parties, usually placed at the end of an agreement and describing specific practice they have agreed to follow

Types of Clauses

The Rights of Parties - The rights of the union, employees, and employers.

The Organization of Work - This includes provisions concerning how work is organized and distributed.

Labour Relations Processes - These clauses concern grievance procedure, arbitration, and joint committees

Education, Training and Development

Working Conditions \rightarrow Related to hours of work/schedules/overtime, pay and benefits, job security, termination, corrective action/progressive discipline and part-time work

Rights of Parties

Recognition of Union security

  • Unions often seek collective agreement language that provides some form of union security. There might also be language regarding leave for union business and restrictions on management’s ability to contract out as a way to ensure union member security

Management Rights

Residual Rights - A principal whereby management retains all rights it held before unionization except those changed by the agreement

Employee Rights/Security

  • In general, there are two types of equity clauses found in agreements

Legislation Reference - Equity clause in collective agreements that references legislation

Explicit reference

Equity clause in collective agreements that specifies which groups are covered

  • Some argue that the legislative reference is preferred as it ensures that the agreement is current with the law. Others argue that the explicit reference is better because (1) most managers, union leaders, and employees look to their collective agreement for guidance on these issues and the lack of specifies would not meet this need; (2) explicitly referencing specific groups ensures that these groups remain protected if the law changes, and (3) the parties may feel that they wish to include a group not covered by legislation

Desired Relationship

  • The parties will also set out expectations concerning the desired, positive relationship between the parties.

Organization of Work

Technological Change

  • Negotiating technological change (aka tech-change)
  • As a way to protect workers from the potentially negative impacts of new tech.
  • Include \rightarrow Union being notified of the change, any restrictions concerning layoffs, any employer requirements concerning employee training for new jobs/equipment, and any wage protection for employees (often called red circling - protecting employees pay at a level higher than the normal rate of their current job) who might be demoted and/or moved to a lower-paying positive as a direct result of tech-change

Distribution of work

  • Examine issues concerning job rotation, job sharing, teams/work groups and flexibility in the work assignment

Labour relations

  • Specifically deal with issues concerning the relationship between the relationship between the parties. Typically, clauses, examine grievance/arbitration procedures, participatory mechanisms, and preferred bargaining methods

Grievance and arbitration

  • Right to a grievance procedure is not a requirement under common law. Thus, most agreements have specific language related to grievance and arbitration.
  • Even define grievances

Participatory Mechanisms and bargaining methods

  • Sometimes parties include language to enable ongoing negotiations to address specific issues rather than wait for the next round of collective bargaining

Health and safety committees

  • Joint health and safety committees are required be law. Many collective agreements include language on the role of such committees. This language may discuss committee membership, roles, record keeping and pay

Education, training and employee development

  • Unionized workers often have increased access to workplace training. Thus, many collective agreements contain specific language about leaves for education, repayment of educational expenses, access to training, the employers ability to provide multi skill training, contributions to a training fund, and apprenticeship training programs
  • Multi-skill training: training to provide employees with a variety of skills some of which may not normally be part of their job

Repayment of Educational Expenses


  • This language will distinguish apprentices from journey persons
  • May cover off pay rates and progression, number of apprentices, legislative training requirements, hiring upon completion of the apprenticeship

Conditions of work

  • Includes \rightarrow Issue related to work schedules, OT, pay, health and welfare and termination of employment, layoff

Hours of work

  • Most collective agreements, provide an overview of a typical workday. In workplaces with shift workplace,
  • Overtime
  • Holidays
  • Vacation leave

Termination, layoff, discipline

  • Probationary employees
  • Just cause
  • Layoff
  • Discipline

Special issues in collective agreements

  • Bumping
  • Super seniority
  • The subtleties of Language

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