Fact Sheet on Collective Bargaining

The Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board (FPSLREB) is responsible for the administration of the collective bargaining process within the federal public service covered by the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act (FPSLRA) and the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act (PESRA).

Overview of Collective Bargaining

Approximately 200,000 employees in 100 bargaining units are covered by the collective bargaining and other provisions of the FPSLRA. The FPSLRA identifies the process for the resolution of disputes arising from collective bargaining to be conciliation. Conciliation is a non-binding process that can lead to employees having the right to strike under certain prescribed conditions, and is therefore often referred to as the "conciliation/strike route."

Section 104 identifies two conditions under which arbitration may be substituted.  Section 104(1) allows the employer and the bargaining agent, by agreement in writing, to choose arbitration as the process for the resolution of the dispute. It is to be noted that in the case of a separate agency, any such agreement requires the approval of the President of the Treasury Board.

Section 104(2) allows for arbitration to be substituted as the dispute resolution process if, on the day on which notice to bargain collectively may be given, 80% or more of the positions in the bargaining unit have been designated under section 120, in whole or in part, as providing an essential service.

Arbitration culminates in an arbitral award (a decision) that is legally binding on both parties and precludes subsequent strike action.

The PESRA provides for binding arbitration as the only method available for the resolution of collective bargaining disputes for parliamentary employees; there is, therefore, no right to strike.

When Mediation May Be Involved

Regardless of whether conciliation applies or arbitration is available under those conditions identified above, the parties may reach a point in their face-to-face negotiations where it is increasingly difficult to make progress. At this stage, either party may request the services of a mediator. The Chairperson of the FPSLREB may at any time, if requested to do so, or on his or her own initiative, appoint a mediator to confer with the parties to a dispute and to endeavor to assist them in settling the dispute.

Public Interest Commission

Should the involvement of a mediator not bring about a settlement and where the method of dispute resolution is “conciliation", a Public Interest Commission (PIC) may be appointed by the Minister on the recommendation of the FPSLREB Chairperson. A PIC may be composed of a single person or a panel of three persons. It should be noted that two members of a PIC are selected by the respective parties and they then try to agree on the selection of the third member to serve as chairperson.  Once established, the PIC will be given the list of issues in dispute upon which it will endeavor to assist the parties to a dispute in entering into or revising a collective agreement. In most cases, the parties will have reached agreement on a number of provisions before conciliation is requested.

In conducting proceedings and preparing its report, a PIC is to be guided by and to give preponderance to recruitment and retention of competent persons and secondly, the country’s fiscal circumstances relative to its stated budgetary policies. If relevant to making a determination in respect of these elements, the PIC may also take into account other factors such as internal public service salary relativities, compensation comparability with similar occupations in the private and public service, consideration of qualifications, responsibilities and services rendered, and finally the state of the Canadian economy. 

The PIC must submit its recommendations to the Chairperson of the FPSLREB within 30 days after it was established, or within any longer period that may be agreed upon by the parties or determined by the Chairperson so that the report may be made public. The PIC must set out in its report the reasons for each of its recommendations.

In the event that the recommendations from the PIC do not bring about a settlement, the FPSLRA requires that before a strike may be called, a vote by secret ballot be held among all of the employees in the bargaining unit. All employees in the bargaining unit will have the right to vote and must be given reasonable opportunity to participate in the vote. The bargaining agent may authorize or declare a strike only within the 60-day period following the vote, provided that it has received the majority support of voters.

Arbitration Boards

As mentioned above, when the conditions set out in the Act are met, arbitration boards are established in much the same manner as PIC's, except that they are established by the Chairperson of the FPSLREB.  At the outset of the process, the Chairperson of the FPSLREB must give the arbitration board a notice referring the matters in dispute to arbitration.  In most cases, the parties will have reached agreement on a number of provisions before arbitration takes place.

In conducting proceedings and rendering its award, an arbitration board is to be guided by and to give preponderance to recruitment and retention of competent persons and secondly, the country’s fiscal circumstances relative to its stated budgetary policies. If relevant to making a determination in respect of these elements, the arbitration board may also take into account other factors such as internal public service salary relativities, compensation comparability with similar occupations in the private and public service, consideration of qualifications, responsibilities and services rendered, and finally the state of the Canadian economy.  An arbitral award is binding on the parties and forms a supplement to the collective agreement.

The arbitration board must make an arbitral award as soon as feasible and set out in the award the reasons for its decision in respect of each of the matters in dispute.

Services Provided to the Yukon

In addition, under an agreement with the Yukon government, the FPSLREB administers the collective bargaining systems under Yukon's Education Labour Relations Act and Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act. When performing these functions funded by the Yukon government, the FPSLREB acts respectively as the Yukon Teachers Labour Relations Board and the Yukon Public Service Labour Relations Board.