April 12, 2018

The rules for working and managing in a unionized workplace are very different from those that apply to non-union workplaces. Managers and supervisors new to unionized work environments as well as new union stewards and representatives will find this session to be an invaluable introduction to the law and structure of the unionized workplace. Experienced management and union counsel will explain the key legal differences between working and managing in a unionized workplace as well as the fundamentals of interpreting collective agreements and navigating the grievance process. Specific questions to be addressed include:

Union and management roles:

  • What are the key differences between managing in a unionized workplace versus a non-unionized workplace?
  • What are the constraints on the employer’s ability to unilaterally make new rules? Will arbitrators subject all management actions to a test of reasonableness? Must all managerial authority be exercised in good faith?
  • What does the union’s status as “exclusive bargaining agent” for bargaining unit members mean? Can management ever make private deals with individual employees?
  • In what circumstances is an employee entitled to have a union representative present at a meeting with a supervisor or other member of management?
  • What is the role of a union steward? What is the extent of the protection from discipline for insubordination that “union immunity” provides union stewards?
  • What is the “just cause” standard for discipline and how does it relate to “progressive discipline”? What are the elements of progressive discipline? What steps should an employer follow in trying to correct an employee’s behaviour?

Reading and understanding the collective agreement:

  • What rules should union and management representatives follow to interpret collective agreement provisions? What effect do marginal notes and headings in a collective agreement have in aiding interpretation?
  • How do you interpret a provision that seems unclear? When will collective agreement language be considered ambiguous such that evidence of past practice and negotiating history should be consulted to ascertain the parties’ intentions?
  • When will the past conduct or representations of one party prevent it from enforcing its strict rights under the collective agreement?

The grievance procedure:

  • What are the standard elements of a grievance process? Who is typically involved at each step of the grievance procedure?
  • What should union and management representatives do to prepare for a formal grievance meeting? What about during and after the meeting? How should the meeting be conducted?
  • What type of analysis should each side conduct in order to determine whether a matter is worth taking to arbitration? How does the “duty of fair representation” affect a union’s decision to pursue (or not to pursue) a grievance to arbitration?