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Collective Bargaining, Agreements and Negotiations: FAQ

  • Content last reviewed: November 2011

What is the unionization rate in Ontario?

The unionization rate in Ontario is approximately 28% and for Canada it is 31%. (Source: HRSDC calculations based on Statistics Canada, Labour Force Historical Review 2009)

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What is a collective agreement?

A collective agreement is a written contract of employment covering a group of employees who are represented by a trade union. This agreement contains provisions governing the terms and conditions of employment. It also contains the rights, privileges and duties of the employer, the trade union and the employees.

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What is collective bargaining?

Collective bargaining is a process in which a trade union and an employer negotiate a first collective agreement or the renewal of a previous collective agreement. The parties usually focus on such issues as wages, working conditions, grievance procedures and fringe benefits.

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How are negotiations for a collective agreement begun?

If a trade union has just been certified, it will then give the employer written notice of its desire to bargain. If the employer and the union are already bound by a collective agreement, then either party may give notice to bargain:

  • within the 90 days before the agreement is due to expire, or
  • during any other period set out in the agreement.

In either case, the union and the employer must meet within 15 days from the giving of notice, unless they agree to some other time period. (See Sections 16, 17 and 59 of the Labour Relations Act, 1995).

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What happens if, during negotiations, the employer and the union cannot agree on the terms of a collective agreement?

Either the employer or the union may ask the Ontario Minister of Labour to appoint a conciliation officer. This officer will then try to help them reach an agreement (See Section 18 of the Labour Relations Act, 1995).

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