You may have heard the terms “conciliation,” “conciliator,” and “no board report.” What does it all mean? Here’s a handy bargaining FAQ that describes what happens next.
What is “conciliation”?
At any point during negotiations, Ontario’s Colleges Collective Bargaining Act (CCBA) allows the union or the College Employer Council (CEC) to request neutral third-party assistance to help resolve their differences. That request for assistance is called “conciliation”.
A request for conciliation is a common occurrence during collective bargaining.
After the request for conciliation is filed, a conciliation officer is appointed by the Minister of Labour to meet with the union and the employer in an attempt to conclude a collective agreement.
To review the CCBA, click here.
In this 2021 round of bargaining, the College Employer Council (CEC) called for conciliation.
What does a conciliation officer do?
A conciliation officer (or “conciliator”) is an impartial third party, appointed by the Minister of Labour, who has experience in mediation and alternative dispute resolution.
Conciliation officers confer with both the union and the employer, using their expertise to try to help both sides find mutually agreeable solutions to outstanding issues they might not have considered during bargaining.
What happened at the meeting of November 18, 2021?
The CEC requested a “no board” report from the Concilliator.
What does the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act say about “no board” reports?
Ontario’s Colleges Collective Bargaining Act states that the existing terms and conditions of collective agreements remain the same until the Minister of Labour issues a “no board” report.
After the “no board” report is issued, the terms and conditions of collective agreements are frozen for a 16 day period. Bargaining may continue during that time. On the 17th day following the “no board” report, any or all of the following could legally occur:
- the union could call for strike action provided it has taken a strike vote and more than 50% vote in favour of strike action (Note: strike action can range from work-to-rule up to a full withdrawal of services);
- the employer could lock out its employees;
- the employer could make unilateral changes to the collective agreement;
- the union and the employer could continue to bargain;
- the union and the employer could mutually agree to send unresolved issues to binding arbitration;
- the employer still has the option, as they have since September 15 2021, of requesting a last offer vote.
What happens next in the “no board” report process?
The Conciliation Officer reports the outcome of the conciliation meeting to the Minister of Labour. The Minister of Labour will then send a written notice to OPSEU and the CEC bargaining agencies stating that a board of conciliation will not be appointed. This is known as a “no board” report.
Employer-imposed terms and conditions of employment are legally possible on the 17th day following the issuance of the “no board” report.
The two sides can keep trying to reach a deal before or after a “no board” report has been issued by the Minister of Labour.
Does a countdown to a legal strike position begin on the day the CEC requested the “no board” report (i.e. November 18, 2021)?
No, the countdown does not begin on November 18, 2021. The union must first request a strike vote which is conducted by the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) and receive a mandate. Only then could the union potentially call for job action.
How long does it take for a Conciliator to send a “no board” report to the Minister of Labour?
It varies, but typically it takes a week.
What can the employer do by requesting the “no board” report?
On the 17th day after the “no board” report has been issued, the CEC can either lock faculty out (something they have said they will not do) or impose terms.
What are these “imposed terms” you are referring to?
“Imposed terms” are a nuclear option available to the CEC. On the 17th day after the “no board” report has been issued, the CEC can unilaterally change faculty’s pay, benefits, or any other working condition. The terms could be absolutely anything.
Why does a union need a strike mandate?
The union needs a strike mandate before engaging in any job action such as work-to-rule or a strike. A strike mandate is something a union would want to have as a possible response to employer-imposed terms.
If the union has a strike mandate, does the union have to engage in strike action on the 17th day after the Minister of Labour issues a “no board” report?
No, the union does not have to. The union wants to avoid a strike. Typically, unions do want to be able to respond to the nuclear threat of imposed terms should the employer use them.
Once the “no board” report has been issued, can the union continue to bargain?
Yes. The CAAT-A Bargaining Team has advised the CEC of its desire to continue bargaining. The Union has also proposed that any remaining issues be referred to binding arbitration which would avoid imposed terms or job action. The CEC has rejected that proposal.