Your union contract is one of the most important documents you have as a union member. It contains practical and relevant information about your wages, benefits and working conditions. This legally binding agreement directly affects your life, from when your raises will be to what your rights and benefits are in your workplace.
The rights and privileges outlined in your union contract were achieved through the determination and unity of union members like yourself working together over the years for fairness at work. Union negotiators, together with workers from your bargaining unit, negotiated many of the gains you enjoy in your workplace through the collective bargaining process. Your union contract was voted on and approved by the membership in your workplace.
Union Contract FAQ
How is My Union Contract Negotiated?
Your union contract is negotiated through the collective bargaining process.
Collective bargaining is essentially direct negotiations between employer and union representatives (including workers from the workplace) to reach a union contract.
Collective bargaining is a method of determining wages, hours, dignity and respect and other conditions of employment through direct negotiations between the union and the employer.
Here are the steps to negotiating a union contract:
- UFCW Canada Local 1006A will hold proposal meetings so members can discuss and determine their priorities during negotiations. Members have the opportunity to provide feedback on improvements to the terms and conditions of their employment (wages, benefits, working conditions, etc). Your union representatives will provide input on areas for improvement based on their experiences.
- Your negotiating committee will review members’ proposals and draft the priorities to be taken to the bargaining table. The committee is composed of highly skilled and experienced union negotiators, union representatives and rank-and-file members.
- At the bargaining table, your union negotiating committee and the employer will table and exchange contract proposals. Negotiations (with back and forth exchanges of proposals) will continue until the union and employer get to a settlement, also known as the memorandum of settlement or agreement. The settlement or agreement is taken to the membership for a vote.
An agreement is ratified if workers vote 50 per cent plus one to accept its terms. Once ratified, the contract becomes legal and binding until it expires. If a majority does not vote 'yes', the offer is rejected.
Sometimes, it may take a labour dispute to achieve an agreement.
How Can I Get Involved?
Your union bargaining committee’s main priority during negotiations is to achieve the best possible agreement for you and your co-workers. But we cannot do it alone. If you want a fair contract, you need to participate as much as you can in the negotiations process and support your bargaining committee.
The contributions of members is essential to collectively achieving fairness at the bargaining table.
Ways to Get Involved:
- Attend Union Meetings and Ratification Meetings
- Encourage your co-workers to participate and to attend meetings with you. The more members who participate, the stronger we will be at the bargaining table.
- Check your union bulletin board regularly, and depending on the negotiations, your union website. These will provide you with important bargaining updates and key meeting dates.
Who Negotiates My Union Contract?
Your union contract is negotiated by two parties: the company and the union negotiating committees.
Your union bargaining committee includes members from the workplace who are activists, stewards and leaders within the bargaining unit.
It’s important for members to be part of the bargaining committee because they know how things work in the workplace on a day to day basis.
In addition, we draw from a team of skilled, experienced and dedicated negotiators from your union to lead bargaining.
Our team has bargained hundreds of agreements and has decades of experience negotiating contracts with employers of all sizes and industries.
In addition, your bargaining committee is supported by union representatives and a variety of professional experts, including legal counsel, health and safety, and WSIB advocates.
This highly skilled team is your bargaining committee and their number one priority in bargaining is to get the best possible agreement for you and your co-workers.
How Long Do Negotiations Take?
There is no set time frame as much depends on the issues to be dealt with at the bargaining table.
Some negotiations may be more complicated because of changes in the industry or changes within the company.
Our goal is to negotiate the contract as expeditiously as possible but we are not going to leave the bargaining table until we are satisfied that we have done everything we can to negotiate the best union contract.
When do Strikes or Lockouts take place?
The vast majority of negotiations in Canada are resolved without a strike or lockout. While lockouts and strikes often make the news, the reality is most negotiations are resolved at the bargaining table.
Negotiations are a balancing act between the workers’ interest and the employer’s interest.
Your union’s goal at the bargaining table is to achieve the best possible deal for you and you co-workers. However, if the company tries to demand cuts to our members’ compensation or has unreasonable expectations, a labour dispute may be unavoidable. Just as the employer has no say in our decision to take strike action, the union has no say if the employer decides to lock workers out.
If your bargaining committee believes that strike action may be necessary, you will be with us every step of the way. We will hold meetings, and give you the opportunity to vote on whether or not you would support a strike. Our members collectively make the final decision.
What is conciliation or mediation?
A process for resolving labour disputes, using an unbiased third party whose decision is not binding. Members are represented by the union at conciliation and mediation.
Management and labour are free to accept or reject the recommendations of conciliators and mediators.
What is a no-board report?
A report that must be issued by a labour relations board before a union can go on strike (in some jurisdictions like Ontario).
Who should I contact if I need help understanding my union contract?
Your union representative is available to answer any questions or concerns you have regarding your rights under your union contract. If you feel the employer may be violation of your union contract and/or is not treating you fairly, contact your union representative and talk to them. They will be happy to help you.
What steps do I take if I think my employer is in violation of the union contract?
- Immediately contact your union steward. Grievances occur when you or your union believes that your employer has violated the union contract. A grievance must be filed within a certain number of days from the incident or your knowledge of the incident occurring.
- If the steward is unable to help resolve your concerns/problems, make sure you or your steward immediately contacts Your Union Rep. Failure to meet deadlines as explained in your union contract could result in loss of the grievance.
- Keep detailed notes and information from witnesses to document your case. Follow management orders even if you believe they violate the union contract.
- Do as instructed and grieve later. The exception to this rule is if the order requires you to risk your health and/or safety or to break a law.
If the union and employer can not agree on how to resolve a grievance, either party can take the grievance to arbitration. That's when an impartial third party listens to the arguments of the union and the employer and makes a final binding decision. The union and management try to agree on who the arbitrator will be. If they can not agree, the Minister of Labour is asked to appoint an arbitrator. The parties are bound to abide by the arbitrator's decision.