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4.7 Additional Labour Relations Act Issues

See also: The Changing Workplaces Review

During the consultations, a number of additional features of the Labour Relations Act, 1995 (LRA) were raised as being in need of reform. This section highlights specific issues that merit additional attention. However, stakeholders remain welcome to raise any other specific provisions in the LRA for consideration in our second stage of consultation.

Ability of Arbitrators to Extend Arbitration Time Limits

Before 1995, the LRA had included a provision stating that an arbitrator “may extend the time for any step in the grievance or arbitration procedure under a collective agreement” if the arbitrator believed that there were reasonable grounds for the extension and the opposite party would not be substantially prejudiced. In 1995, the legislation was extensively amended. The provision introduced in 1995 (section 48(16) of the LRA) which is still in place reads: “Except where a collective agreement states that this subsection does not apply, an arbitrator or arbitration board may extend the time for the taking of any step in the grievance procedure under a collective agreement”. As a result of this change, it appears that arbitrators no longer have the authority to extend time limits in the arbitration procedure (e.g., the time limit for referral to arbitration). Some stakeholders assert that the result of this situation is that potentially meritorious grievances can be defeated on technical grounds. This could be addressed through an amendment to the LRA. We invite comments on this point.

Conciliation Boards

Under the LRA, parties must go through the conciliation process before a strike or lock-out would be legal. If a conciliation officer is unable to effect a collective agreement, the Minister has the option of either appointing a conciliation board or issuing a notice in writing, informing each of the parties that he or she does not consider it advisable to appoint a conciliation board. This is known as a “no board” report. In practice, it appears that conciliation boards are never appointed. It is not clear when this mechanism fell generally into disuse. From the perspective of labour relations practitioners, there seems to be little point in having detailed procedures set out in the legislation that are simply not used in practice. The process requirements of the LRA could potentially be simplified by eliminating the reference to conciliation boards. We invite comments on this point.

Excluded Submission

One submission was excluded from our consideration. One union submitted recommendations relating to statutory expedited arbitration and the mandatory strike vote under the LRA. Due to a potential conflict of interest, these recommendations have been referred to the Ministry of Labour to be considered separately from the review process.

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