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Arbitration: FAQ

  • Content last reviewed: November 2011
 

What does the term arbitration mean?

Arbitration is a quasi-judicial process in which a disinterested third-party (an arbitrator or arbitration board) hears evidence presented by both the union and the employer on issues in dispute, and hands down a binding decision.

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What is an arbitrator?

An arbitrator performs a function similar to a judge or court, such as holding hearings, evaluating the submissions and evidence of the parties, and making a binding decision resolving matters in dispute between the parties.

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What is the difference between rights and interest arbitration?

Rights: Grievance arbitration, also known as rights arbitration, is a mechanism to resolve disputes about the interpretation and application of a collective agreement during the term of that agreement.

Interest: A mechanism to renew or establish a new collective agreement for parties without the right to strike/lock-out, i.e. hospital/nursing home workers.

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How binding is the decision of an arbitrator or arbitration board?

It is final and binding. If it is not obeyed, it can be filed with the Ontario Court (General Division) which would enforced the decision. Failure to abide by an arbitration decision can be contempt of court. (See Section 48 (18) (19) of the Labour Relations Act, 1995).

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What does "grievance" mean when used in labour relations?

A grievance is a written complaint alleging a contravention of the collective agreement.

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What if an employee or a trade union feels the employer is not following the terms of the collective agreement, or if there is a disagreement about the meaning of part of the collective agreement?

In such a situation, the employee or the union may file a grievance. The grievance procedure is set out in the collective agreement itself. Normally, it involves three or four steps. At each step more senior people from both the union and the employer try to settle the grievance. The collective agreement will often provide for a time limit within which the grievance must be commenced (usually a certain number of days after the event giving rise to the grievance). If the grievance is not filed within this period, it may be dismissed. An arbitrator has the power to extend the time limit, but only if the other side's position will not be prejudiced, and if the collective agreement does not forbid such an extension (See Section 48 (16) of the Labour Relations Act, 1995).

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What if the union and the employer cannot settle a grievance?

The grievance must then be referred to an arbitrator or board of arbitration. The method for doing this should also be set out in the collective agreement. An arbitrator performs a function similar to a judge or court by making a binding decision resolving the matters in dispute between the parties. Occasionally, collective agreements provide that the grievances be heard and decided by one person acting as a sole arbitrator. More common, however, is the appointment of a three-person arbitration board. The union and the employer each select a member, and those two members, in turn, agree on a chair (See Section 48 of the Labour Relations Act, 1995).

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What if either the union or the employer refuses to appoint a representative to an arbitration board, or if agreement cannot be reached on the selection of a chair?

If the collective agreement itself does not provide for such a situation, then the Ontario Minister of Labour can be asked to make whatever appointments are necessary.

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What is the difference between sections 48 and 49 of the Labour Relations Act, 1995?

Section 48 provides for a ministerial appointment of an arbitrator or member of an arbitration board if the parties fail to make such an appointment under their collective agreement's grievance arbitration procedure.

Section 49 provides for a ministerial appointment of a single arbitrator in an expedited arbitration process and replaces the collective agreement's arbitration procedure for that particular grievance. The appointed arbitrator will begin to hear the matter with 21 days after receipt of the request by the minister.

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How do I apply to be included on the minister's list of arbitrators?

Application forms and details of criteria for inclusion on the list of arbitrators appointed by the minister will be mailed to interested parties upon request. This should be returned to the address specified on the form, together with the administration fee of $50.

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