We understand that a potential labour interruption or strike can be a very stressful time and that not everyone is familiar with the terms and language used when discussing the situation. The questions below will give you a better understanding of the process and what important labour terms mean.
1. What is a strike?
A strike is a cessation of work, a refusal to work or to continue work, by employees in combination or in concert with a common understanding, or a slow-down or other concerted activity on the part of employees designed to restrict or limit production for the purpose of compelling an employer to agree to terms or conditions of employment. (S.2 (1)(v))
2. What is a collective agreement?
A collective agreement is a written contract between the university and a union that outlines many of the terms and conditions of employment for employees in a bargaining unit. (S.2(1))
3. What is collective bargaining?
Collective bargaining – known also as ‘negotiations’ — is the framework under which the negotiation of the collective agreement takes place. It is a process in which a union and an employer negotiate, in good faith, to achieve a collective agreement. Where there are mature contracts in place, the parties usually focus on improving such issues as wages, vacation and other terms under the contract. (S.2 (1))
4. What is a tentative agreement?
A tentative agreement means the university’s and the union’s negotiating teams have agreed to the terms of a collective agreement, but the terms have not yet been agreed to (“ratified”) by either the bargaining unit members or the university’s governing body – the Board of Governors.
5. What is a ratification vote?
Ratification by the union is the process by which members of the bargaining unit vote to accept or reject the terms of the collective agreement that the university and union have negotiated. The ratification vote happens at the end of collective bargaining, after the university and the union have reached a tentative agreement.
All members of the bargaining unit have the right to vote. Each person gets one vote. The vote must be conducted by secret ballot. The collective agreement is considered “ratified” by the bargaining unit if a majority of those voting accept the terms of the tentative collective agreement. (S.103 (5))
A collective agreement is ratified by the university, when the tentative agreement is approved by the Board of Governors. (S.103 (6))
Once both parties have ratified the tentative collective agreement, it is signed and becomes the new collective agreement.
6. What is a lock-out?
A lock-out is the suspension of work by the employer for the purpose of compelling bargaining unit employees to agree to terms or conditions of employment. (S.2 (1) (o))
7. What is conciliation?
Conciliation is the process of intervention in collective bargaining by a neutral third party who is knowledgeable in effective negotiation procedures. This third party is called a “Conciliator.” This person helps bring the parties together in order to reach a collective agreement, but has no authority to make decisions. (S.37)
8. What if the conciliator isn’t able to help resolve the impasse?
The Conciliator will file a confidential report with the Minister of Labour and Advanced Education. (S. 38)
Once the report is filed, A 14-calendar-day countdown period begins at 12:01 am on the day following the filing. During the countdown period, the employer is not permitted to increase or decrease rates of wages or alter any other term or condition of employment. Nor is a union able to commence a strike action during the count down period.
The Conciliator may request the parties to attend a meeting during the countdown period in a further attempt to reach a settlement if the conciliator believes reaching an agreement is possible. If the parties are unable to reach a settlement, a work stoppage may be initiated by either the union or the employer.The following conditions must be met before either party may engage in a legal work stoppage:
• The 14-calendar-day countdown must have expired; and
• Written 48 hours’ notice of intention to strike by the union or lockout by the employer must be received by the Minister.
In addition to the above, any union wishing to commence a strike must have conducted a secret-ballot vote where the majority of affected members have voted to support strike action. (S.47)
9. Does a strike vote have to take place before a strike? How does it happen?
Yes. (S.47 (3))
A strike vote by secret ballot is required before a union can lawfully commence a strike of employees in the bargaining unit. A union holding a strike vote is a common occurrence in collective bargaining and does not mean that a strike will occur. Strike votes may occur either before or after a conciliation exercise. It is a union’s decision as to when a strike vote may be called.
All employees in a bargaining unit have the right to participate in such a vote and must have ample opportunity to cast a ballot at a reasonably convenient time and place and a majority of such employees have voted in favour of a strike.
This is a vote that is conducted entirely by the union; it is not supervised by the Minister of Labour and Advanced Education. It is entirely up to the union as to whether it releases the specific vote results. The outcome of the vote will tell the union whether the employees in the bargaining unit authorize the union to call a strike. As a result, all bargaining unit members are encouraged to participate in the vote.
10. Does a “yes” on a strike vote mean that a strike will happen?
No, not necessarily. The outstanding issues at the bargaining table are important ones, both to CBU and the Union. An agreement can be reached at any time after a strike vote. The conciliation process, in particular, provides an opportunity for both parties, with the help of a skilled conciliator appointed by the Department of Labour and Advanced Education, to reach a tentative agreement. CBU will be approaching the meetings with the aid of a conciliator appointed by the Department of Labour and Advanced Education with a view to a successful outcome.
11. What happens if, during negotiations, an employer and a union cannot agree on the terms to be included in a collective agreement?
If the parties cannot settle a collective agreement – this is sometimes called bargaining to an ‘impasse’ — either party may ask the Minister of Labour and Advanced Education to appoint a conciliator to assist the parties reach an agreement.
12. If talks have broken down, does that mean there is or will be a labour interruption (strike)?
No. CBUFA has been in a legal strike (stop work) position since December 26, 2016. CBUFA must provide 48 hours notice to CBU prior to any job action. At this time, no notice of a labour interruption has been received.
13. What happens now that talks have broken down?
CBU remains hopeful that a resolution can be reached.
14. What is a picket line?
In the event a strike occurs, the union will likely set up small demonstrations or a ‘picket lines’. At a picket line, the union members will generally carry signs that show their concerns or issues and they may be walking in front of the road entrances.
15. In the event of a possible strike at CBU, can I cross a picket line?
Yes. As a CBU student, you are not only permitted to cross a CBUFA picket line to enter the campus, you have a legal right to do so, just as non-striking employees and members of the public do. We are confident that any picketing will occur in a lawful, respectful and considerate manner. We understand that this may be uncomfortable for some students and we encourage you to act as you normally would towards the faculty. It is legal for those on strike to picket to provide information, but they must allow the normal movement of people and vehicles into CBU.
16. Since the conciliation process was unsuccessful, is a work stoppage inevitable?
No. We are doing everything to conclude a tentative agreement that is acceptable to the Board and the Union.
17. Where can I see a detailed timeline on the Collective Bargaining Process?
Negotiations began on July 4, 2016. For more information please visit our detailed timeline of the Collective Bargaining Process.
18. How will CBU provide updates on the negotiation process to university students and staff?
This website will continue to be updated with any new developments. Important updates affecting students and staff will also be communicated to you directly in all-student and all-employee email from Interim President, Dale Keefe. Please pay close attention to all future communications from the University on this matter.
19. What happened when the CBU and CBUFA negotiating teams met in December 2016?
During the December 21st meeting CBU’s negotiations team presented an amended proposal to CBUFA on layoff language (article 39). That article was identified as CBUFA’s number one priority.
20. What was in the amended proposal offered by CBU during the December 2016 meetings?
During the December meetings, CBU’s negotiating team presented an amended proposal to CBUFA on the layoff language (article 39). This article was identified as CBUFA’s number one priority. Essentially, the proposal offered significant concessions including:
- Termination of the layoff process started in January 2016; meaning the current possibility of CBUFA layoffs would be off the table
- A commitment of no layoff of CBUFA members during the life of the new collective agreement (June 2019)
- More rigorous criteria for a future triggering of Article 39 by CBU
Additionally, with the next collective agreement negotiations expected to begin in June 2019 there would be more opportunities for the parties to discuss specifics of lay-off language. Regrettably, an agreement was still not reached.
21. When could a strike take place?
The Provincial conciliator who has been working with the parties filed his official report with the Minister of Labour on December 12, 2016. As is standard procedure, once the report has been filed, a fourteen-day “cooling off period” commenced. At the conclusion of the cooling off period on December 26, CBUFA will be in a legal strike position and CBU in a legal lockout position. The CBU Faculty Association must provide 48 hours’ written notice of their intention to strike to the Nova Scotia Minister of Labour.