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OTTAWA – ACFO must select a dispute resolution mechanism (DRM) in the event that a settlement cannot be reached with the employer at the bargaining table. ACFO must register its DRM selection with the Public Service Labour Relations Board (PSLRB) prior to either party giving notice to bargain. Notice to bargain may be given by either party as of July 6, 2007.
The Public Service Labour Relations Act (PSLRA) provides a choice between two methods of resolving collective bargaining disputes: binding arbitration and conciliation/strike. For the most recent round of negotiations, ACFO selected conciliation/strike as its DRM. In all previous rounds, since ACFO’s certification, the membership has selected binding arbitration as the DRM.
In June, members will be asked to complete a comprehensive survey, where they will indicate their preference of DRM. ACFO will register the DRM selected by the majority of members.
An outline of the two DRM options is provided below.
This form of dispute resolution produces a recommendation that may be accepted or rejected by either party. The recommendation is not binding on either party; however, the threat of job action that would follow provides incentive for the employer to negotiate a reasonable settlement.
The process begins when parties are unable to reach a settlement at the collective bargaining table. In this event, a Public Interest Commission (PIC) will be appointed by the Federal Minister of Labour on the recommendation of the Chairperson of the PSLRB. A PIC may be composed of a single person or a panel of three persons. Members of a PIC are selected from a list of persons jointly agreed to by the parties.
Within 30 days of its appointment, the PIC will report its recommendations for settlement to the Chairperson of the PSLRB, who will then make the report public.
In the event that these recommendations from the PIC do not bring about a settlement, the PSLRA requires that a secret ballot strike vote must be held before the bargaining agent can call a strike. All employees in the bargaining unit will have the right to vote and must be given reasonable opportunity to participate in the vote.
The bargaining agent may authorize or declare a strike within the period of 60 days following the vote, provided that it has received the majority support of voters. The bargaining agent and employer must go through a designation process to determine which employees are deemed essential to the health and safety of Canadians and therefore cannot legally participate in a strike.
In addition to a strike, a number of other concerted job actions are available, including rotating strikes, lunchtime pickets and work-to-rule campaigns. With the commitment and support of the entire membership, conciliation/strike can be an effective DRM.
Arbitration results in a final decision that is binding on the parties regarding any matters that are not negotiated at the bargaining table.
The decision is rendered after an arbitration hearing in which both the bargaining agent and employer submit evidence supporting their respective bargaining demands.
Arbitration boards are established in the same manner as PICs, except that they are established by the Chairperson of the PSLRB. Either party may request that an arbitration board be established when negotiations reach an impasse.
At the outset of the process, the Chairperson of the PSLRB must give the arbitration board a notice that refers to them the disputed matters requiring arbitration. In most cases, the parties will have reached agreement on a substantial number of provisions before arbitration is requested.
In reaching a decision, an arbitration board is required to consider a number of factors, including conditions of employment in similar occupations outside the public service, the need to maintain appropriate relationships between classification levels within the public service and the need to take into account the state of the Canadian economy and of the government’s fiscal circumstances.
When binding arbitration is selected, the DRM members are not permitted to participate in a strike to pressure the employer, but can participate in some forms of action such as participating in information pickets, writing letters to MPs and refusing to work unpaid overtime.
Binding arbitration is a particularly effective DRM when persuasive and objective evidence is available to demonstrate a gap between the FI group and internal and external comparator groups.