Frequently asked questions – Collective bargaining in the core public administration
Does the Treasury Board of Canada negotiate collective agreements for all federal public servants?
No. The Treasury Board is the employer for the core public administration, which consists of about 200,500 employees in more than 80 departments and agencies named in Schedule I and Schedule IV of the Financial Administration Act. As such, Treasury Board directly negotiates compensation for about 166,000 unionized employees with their respective bargaining agents and determines compensation for the non-unionized employees.
The core public administration, along with separate agencies, constitutes the public service, which totals about 262,800 employees. The 27 different separate agencies are listed under Schedule V of the Financial Administration Act and conduct their own negotiations for their respective unionized employees and determine compensation levels for their non-unionized employees.
For more details on the Financial Administration Act and related regulations, please consult the website.
What is the status of the negotiations?
A complete list detailing the status of negotiations between the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat and bargaining units is available on the collective bargaining update web page. This page will be updated regularly to indicate when proposals are exchanged and meetings scheduled, etc.
Are there any restrictions on collective bargaining?
Yes. The Public Service Labour Relations Act establishes that issues such as staffing and pension cannot be negotiated given that a collective agreement may not, directly or indirectly, establish, alter or eliminate any term or condition of employment if:
- doing so would require the enactment or amendment of any legislation by Parliament, except for appropriation of money required to implement the term or condition; or
- the term or condition is one that has been or may be established under the Public Service Employment Act, the Public Service Superannuation Act or the Government Employees Compensation Act.
What happens at the bargaining table?
At the initial stage of bargaining, both parties will participate in an exchange of proposals. The proposals presented by the employer and the bargaining agent outline the items each party wishes to amend, delete or add to the collective agreement. In subsequent meetings, the parties continue their discussion with the objective of reaching an agreement.
What happens in the case of an impasse (dispute)?
The Chairperson of the Public Service Labour Relations Board may at any time, whether requested to do so or not, appoint a mediator to discuss with the parties and to assist them in settling the dispute by any means that the mediator considers appropriate, including mediation, facilitation and fact finding. If the mediation is unsuccessful, either party can request that an arbitration or conciliation process be launched.
What is involved in "Arbitration"?
Arbitration is the dispute resolution process that is used when 80 percent or more of the positions in a bargaining unit have been designated as essential or if both parties agree to seek arbitration. If the parties reach an impasse during negotiations, the Chairperson of the Public Service Labour Relations Board establishes an arbitration board to settle the matters in dispute. As soon as possible after being established, the arbitration board will assist the parties in resolving the issues.
If the parties still cannot come to an agreement, the arbitration board must make an arbitral award, and explain its reasons for the award on all the matters in dispute. The content of the arbitral award is then incorporated into the new collective agreement, which is then signed. The arbitral award binds the employer, the bargaining agent and the employees it represents.
What is involved in "Conciliation"?
Conciliation is the default dispute resolution process. Either party can request conciliation of any matters in dispute. It is then incumbent upon the Chairperson of the Public Service Labour Relations Board (PSLRB) to recommend the establishment of a public interest commission (PIC) to conciliate the matters in dispute. As soon as possible after being established, the public interest commission will assist the parties in resolving the dispute.
Whether or not an agreement is reached, the public interest commission will submit a public report that includes its findings, recommendations and written reasons for its recommendations to the Chairperson of the PSLRB. The recommendations of the public interest commission are only binding if both parties had agreed that they would be binding before the commission issues its report.
When are employees in a legal strike position?
If the parties do not reach a collective agreement after receiving the public interest commission's recommendations, the bargaining agent can declare or authorize a strike provided certain conditions are met. The two main conditions are:
- Seven clear days have elapsed since the report of the public interest commission has been sent to the parties.
- Sixty clear days or less have elapsed since a strike vote was conducted.
During a strike, the parties may continue to negotiate.
What are essential services?
The Government of Canada must ensure that Canadians have access to essential services in the event of a strike. The determination of whether or not a position is designated as essential is based on whether or not the position supports a government service, facility or activity that is, or will be, at any time, necessary for the safety or security of the public or a segment of the public. Employees occupying essential positions are prohibited from striking.
Learn more by consulting the essential services section of the website.
What is two-tier bargaining and when is it used?
Two-tier bargaining is a mechanism that allows the employer and the bargaining agent, and one or more deputy heads, to focus on and tailor the terms and conditions of the agreement to specific situations in a given department or departments.
Consult the Guidelines for Two-Tier Bargaining for more information.
What happens once an agreement is reached?
The employer's officials, through the President of Treasury Board, seek authority from the Treasury Board to enter into an agreement with the bargaining agent. If the authority is denied, the parties must resume the collective bargaining process.
On the bargaining agent's side, the process will vary according to its by-laws. In many instances, the tentative agreement must be sent to the members in the affected bargaining unit for a ratification vote. If the vote is negative, the parties must resume the collective bargaining process.
If the vote is positive and the Treasury Board has provided its authority, the parties can then enter into a collective agreement.
Once a collective agreement is ratified by both sides, how long does it take for the employer to implement the agreement?
Unless a longer timeframe is specified in the agreement, the employer is bound by the Public Service Labour Relations Act to implement the provisions of the new collective agreement within 90 days after the day it is signed.
What role do the Treasury Board and the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat play in the context of collective bargaining?
The Treasury Board, as a Cabinet committee, is the employer of the core public administration. Officials of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS), the administrative arm of the Treasury Board, are mandated to negotiate collective agreements on behalf of the Treasury Board. Once a tentative settlement is reached, Treasury Board needs to provide the authorization for TBS officials to enter into a collective agreement.
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