Collective bargaining occurs when a group of people in a workplace band together to increase their negotiating power. There is a greater likelihood of success together than there is apart, so it is also about demonstrating our collective will and resolve.
These negotiations between employees and management lead to a legally binding collective agreement that details many of the terms and conditions of our employment, including wages, working conditions, job security, and more.
This collective agreement also ensures the employer consults with us and that we work collaboratively to seek solutions on matters that affect us. It means our workplaces are governed with transparency and fairness. It helps everyone arrive at solutions to current issues and prevents others. Instead of allowing workplace issues to linger and become more serious problems, it offers an opportunity to collaborate in an orderly and effective manner.
Some economists contend that without collective bargaining, long-term disputes can fester and lead to problems affecting morale and productivity—and sometimes massive workplace disruption. Studies have also shown that jurisdictions that deny workers the right to bargain collectively are in no better fiscal shape (and in many cases, are worse off) than those which allow workers to bargain collectively.
More broadly, unions helped build the middle class in Canada. The eight-hour workday, pensions, minimum wages, employment standards, equal pay, health and safety legislation, pregnancy and parental leave, and other provisions were first negotiated by unionized workers and then extended to others.
Since the 1990s, however, unions have been under attack—first in the private sector and now in the public sector. It’s important that we bust unfair myths and build collective power for the benefit of all.
We find ourselves at a point in history where the workplace is changing and so it's very important that the voices of Ontario’s Professional Employees are heard.
And in fact, work towards a new collective agreement begins many months or as long as a year before the two sides meet.
First, the union’s Board of Directors initiates its Bargaining Readiness Working Group (BRWG) to help oversee the process and assess the union’s preparedness for more formal negotiations. This group consists of the five members of the Executive Committee and the union’s Senior Management Team, with additional specialist staff positions assigned as required. The BRWG is charged with planning and overseeing all aspects of bargaining, from negotiations to engagement, and communications to research. The group has autonomy to make necessary decisions provided it reports to the Board of Directors at its earliest opportunity.
Once the Bargaining Readiness Working Group has been initiated, the next step is for the group to select a bargaining team, which will act as the voice of all AMAPCEO-represented employees at the bargaining table.
In the Ontario Public Service (OPS), members in each of AMAPCEO’s geographic districts will elect a candidate for the Board of Directors’ consideration for appointment to the OPS bargaining team. These candidates will be interviewed, and five to seven members will be recommended by the BRWG for Board approval. The President/CEO is an ex-officio member of the team.
In other AMAPCEO-represented units, two or more members will be elected by members to form the bargaining team.
The President/CEO is an ex-officio member of all bargaining teams. Each team is also supported throughout the process by AMAPCEO’s professional staff and legal counsel from Goldblatt Partners, one of Canada’s leading union-side labour law firms.
Bargaining teams receive thorough training to prepare them for the job ahead.
Interested in being a bargaining team member? Make sure you are subscribed to updates to see when nominations open.
Every AMAPCEO member will be invited to take part in a survey asking you where you want to see improvements to the current collective agreement. It is very important that you complete this survey and make sure your voice is heard. You will receive this survey by email when it opens.
The results will then be further informed by research, additional consultation, and legal advice to generate more specific bargaining plans. The BRWG will present a draft mandate to the Board of Directors for their consideration and approval.
If bargaining timeframes permit, the Board customarily shares high-level priorities with the Annual Delegates’ Conference.
Once mandates are approved by the Board of Directors, the BRWG, President/CEO, or senior staff (depending on the unit) shares them with respective bargaining teams as their mandates going forward.
Specifics on bargaining priorities may not be shared with members to protect our strong position at the bargaining table. Sharing these may weaken our bargaining power with the employer.
Either the union or the employer could serve a formal “notice to bargain” as early as 90 days prior to the expiry of the current collective agreement. This is a legislated requirement that indicates a desire to meet and to begin negotiating a new agreement.
Before negotiations with the employer begin, AMAPCEO and the employer will typically agree on how to negotiate what’s called an Essential Services Agreement (ESA). The Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act (CECBA) requires that an ESA be established for the OPS unit. The ESA will list the specific employees who are deemed essential or emergency personnel who must work in the event of a labour disruption initiated by either the union or the employer.
Members at Public Health Ontario and Waypoint fall under the Hospital Labour Disputes Arbitration Act, which prohibits strikes and lockouts as a means of resolving labour disputes.
AMAPCEO’s other units are not required to have an ESA in place in order to bargain.
If a new agreement is not reached before the expiry of the current contract, all terms and conditions from that contract are frozen in place until a new agreement is ratified. This is called the “statutory freeze” period.
Initial meetings between the union’s bargaining team and the employer begin with each team outlining the context and the objectives of their proposals. They’ll work out how bargaining will be organized and the process (e.g., meeting locations and frequency, how they will communicate, who will serve as spokespeople, the role of legal counsel, etc.).
The union’s bargaining team and the employer will move through their respective proposals, provide answers to questions that the other side may have, and respond to each proposal. The parties are required by legislation to meet and to bargain in good faith. This means that each side must make its best efforts to reach a collective agreement.
The bargaining team, with leadership and guidance from the President/CEO, the team’s Chair, legal counsel and professional staff, will meet on a regular basis to ultimately develop the team’s position on the issues under negotiation and how they wish to proceed.
Bargaining will continue as each side is able to find common ground and accept some of the other side’s proposals while modifying or abandoning, some of their own initial proposals.
A tentative agreement is reached when all issues in dispute are resolved or removed from debate and the Board of Directors are satisfied the mandate has been fulfilled to the best of bargaining team’s ability.
Eventually, the Board of Directors will bring a tentative agreement to members for their majority vote ratification. In the OPS, the Employer will seek Cabinet ratification.
Everyone with an AMAPCEO-represented home position in the unit are entitled to cast a ballot in the ratification vote. It is considered ratified if the majority of those voting are in favour of adopting it. There is no quorum requirement.
If the ratification vote is unsuccessful, the parties may go back to the negotiations table, or move towards placing themselves in a legal strike or lockout position if they had not yet done so.
An impasse in bargaining occasionally occurs when one party cannot accept a proposal that the other side will not abandon.
In previous rounds of bargaining, AMAPCEO and the employer have voluntarily agreed to hire an external mediator to help resolve differences during an impasse. Likewise, the BRWG may on behalf of the bargaining team ask the Board to reconsider its mandate for flexibility that might enable bargaining to progress.
Alternatively, a labour disruption—including job action or strike by AMAPCEO, or a lockout or unilateral imposition by the employer—is possible. These labour disruptions are used when one side is attempting to exert pressure on the other to try and compel them to concede a bargaining position.
There is a strict legal process governing labour disruption, involving several steps that unfold over a period of several weeks. Because of this a labour disruption will never come as a surprise; you will have advance notice about the possibility of a labour disruption.
Because members at Public Health Ontario and Waypoint fall under the Hospital Disputes Arbitration Act, in the event of an impasse, remaining issues will go to a neutral third-party arbitrator, who will resolve the issues and deliver an arbitration award. This set of decisions, plus the issues previously agreed to by the union and the Employer, will become the new collective agreement. In this circumstance, both parties are bound, and no ratification vote is allowed.
Our goal in bargaining is to reach a fair collective agreement, not to initiate a labour disruption.
Throughout our history, AMAPCEO members have shown that we’re willing to take reasonable steps to achieve priority gains and to protect the rights and benefits and we’ve worked hard to secure. This includes increasing our visibility, taking workplace actions, and even getting ready for labour disruption in case it is needed.
If the employer senses that our membership is not behind our bargaining team, they will push for concessions—and try to remove the rights and entitlements we have today.
The best way to avoid this is to ensure every AMAPCEO member in every workplace is engaged and ready to act. Our membership plays a key role in arming our bargaining team with the necessary strength to secure a fair deal. Supporting our colleagues, the bargaining team, and our union, helps demonstrate our collective strength and our resolve to securing a fair contract. This tells the Employer that we are united behind our team and are ready to take action.
Union leadership and local AMAPCEO activists will ask you to take specific actions to demonstrate your solidarity before bargaining begins or while it’s underway. This could include displaying a flag on your desk, using a union background during a video call, or attending an event.
These actions serve as proof of member cohesion and support for AMAPCEO. This can speed up the bargaining process and result in improved collective agreements for all members.
Every AMAPCEO member belongs to a geographic district according to their workplace location. This style of governance makes it easier for us to inform, engage, and mobilize fellow members when we need to demonstrate our collective strength.
While some actions may be union-wide, others may be specific to your district, or even unique to your workplace. Your district may also have a local committee to help organize workplace actions.
If you’re unsure which district you are in, see your Member Dashboard to find out!
You can expect regular, timely updates from AMAPCEO throughout the bargaining process. We will use your personal email address to keep our union business our business.
Make sure your contact information with AMAPCEO is up-to-date, and that you are subscribed to receive our emails. Visit our Subscribe page if you haven’t opted-in to receive our emails.
Signed members also receive exclusive updates and event invitations. If you haven’t become a signed member of AMAPCEO, you can do so at no additional cost at amapceo.ca/membership.
We will also continually update the AMAPCEO website with news as it becomes available.
Don’t use the employer’s email or communications systems (e.g., Teams, Yammer) to discuss bargaining. And don’t listen to or perpetuate rumours (which undermine our efforts)—the most accurate, trustworthy information will come from AMAPCEO leadership and the union office directly.
A strike or a lockout are just two forms of labour disruption. In fact, the term “labour disruption” encompasses a variety of actions that might be undertaken either by AMAPCEO or an employer, where the work performed by AMAPCEO members is slowed or temporarily stopped.
Labour disruptions are used when one side is attempting to exert pressure on another to compel them to concede a bargaining position. For AMAPCEO, they are a last resort and are only used when there is an impasse at the bargaining table, or if the Employer pushes for concessions that we will not accept.
While the term “labour disruption” often conjures images of hundreds of employees on a picket line, the term encompasses a broad spectrum of coordinated job actions, including:
concerted efforts to refuse overtime,
attending a protest meeting during normal working hours (i.e., not on a break),
taking long coffee breaks,
conducting short cessations of work,
refusing to do certain types of work,
And, of course, it also includes strikes (where employees withdraw their labour completely) and lockouts (where the employer refuses to allow its employees to work).
Even a more traditional form of a strike doesn’t mean that everyone in the union would be asked to stop work until the parties reach a new collective agreement. It may also be the case that one building or work unit could be asked to stop working and temporarily withdraw their services. These “rotating strikes” could then move from building to building or area to area on different days.
Employees can only legally initiate a labour disruption after a majority strike vote by members (see below), and employers can only legally initiate a lockout once several specific conditions are met.
A strike vote is the legal term for the vote that is needed for employees to initiate a labour disruption. It is not required for an event that would involve something such as a coordinated lunch break or holding a rally.
Legally, a vote for any form of employee-initiated labour disruption must be called a strike vote, which can lead to some confusion.
It is important to stress a successful strike vote does not necessarily mean that employees will be walking a picket line! It could involve any of the more minor labour disruptions listed above. Members will be thoroughly consulted on any kind of job action prior to any final decisions being made.
Sometimes, a successful strike vote is enough to send a clear message to the employer that members are serious about their bargaining demands, and labour disruptions aren’t necessary.
Conversely, a weak consensus or a failed strike vote would give the employer the impression that members are not in support of their bargaining team or aren’t serious about their demands, which could prolong negotiations and lead to a poor deal.
To authorize any labour disruption, the support of more than 50% of those voting is required.
It’s not unusual to see the parties come to an agreement or settlement after a strike vote, since the real possibility of job action is something everyone (union members and employers) want to avoid. Sometimes, however, employees must resort to some form of job action to convince an employer to settle.
A unit-wide job action would never be initiated without holding a second strike vote—one that explicitly approves a broad-based labour disruption. Due to the nature of our work, this may not even look like a conventional strike—it could be the case where one building or district would be asked to stop working and temporarily withdraw their services, then on a subsequent day, a different building or district would be asked to stop. This is known as a “rotating strike.”
In the event of a full withdrawal of labour, every employee with an AMAPCEO-represented home position would be asked to participate, except those deemed essential under the Essential Services Agreement.
Members acting outside the bargaining unit (e.g., in an OPSEU, MCP position) would return to their home position and participate in the labour withdrawal. Those acting in an AMAPCEO-represented position with a home position in another unit would return to their home position.
Our union will provide members with all the information needed to take part in a labour withdrawal and guide you on how it all will work, should the time come.
Labour disruption pay will only be available in the event of a work stoppage and is only provided to those members who participate in the coordinated job action. If you choose not to participate, you will not receive disruption pay. Subject to the employer’s agreement, AMAPCEO will assume all employer-provided health and wellness benefit costs for those participating in a labour withdrawal. This will all be in accordance with our Labour Disruption Pay Policy and our union will provide more information on how this would work should job action become necessary.