Various Methods of Resolving Industrial Disputes

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Dispute Resolution Methods
Alberta’s Labour Relations Code and Police Officers Collective Bargaining Act provide methods for resolving disputes including:

Mediation
Voluntary Arbitration Board
Compulsory Arbitration Board
Interest Arbitration Board
Disputes Inquiry Board
Public Emergency Tribunal
Construction Industry Disputes Resolution Tribunal
Introduction

Collective bargaining is the process through which employers and employees establish the terms and conditions of employment in unionized workplaces. The vast majority of collective agreements in Alberta are reached through negotiations without outside assistance (over 80 per cent) or through negotiations using a provincially-appointed mediator. Fewer than two per cent of collective bargaining negotiations result in a strike or lockout, a need for special action by the parties or special provincial intervention.

The Labour Relations Code automatically extends the terms and conditions of the existing contract that may otherwise expire while bargaining continues. This is called bridging and continues until a new collective agreement is achieved, a lawful strike or lockout takes place, or bargaining rights are terminated.

The Code requires the parties to meet with each other and bargain in good faith. Both sides must make every reasonable effort to enter into a collective agreement. If one party feels the other is failing to meet or to bargain in good faith, that party may file a complaint with the Alberta Labour Relations Board. If the complaint cannot be settled, the Board may hold a hearing, make a finding, and, if necessary, issue directives or impose conditions to ensure that good faith bargaining resumes.

Mediation

At any time during collective bargaining, either party may ask for the assistance of a mediator. The appointment of a mediator is considered a regular part of the collective bargaining process.

Normally, there are four possible outcomes of mediation:

The mediator can help the parties reach a ratified collective agreement. The mediator can issue a recommendation for settlement which is accepted by the parties and forms the basis of a collective agreement. Both or one party rejects the mediator’s recommendations.

The mediator is not able to resolve differences between the parties. In the case of 3) and 4) above, the parties can continue negotiations, with or without the assistance of the mediator.

The parties also have the options of strike or lockout action, or, if they both agree, voluntary interest arbitration. (In public sector disputes where there is no right to strike or lockout, a dispute is resolved through compulsory arbitration).

If strike or lockout action is considered, a 14-day “cooling off” period is required from the date of the mediator writing out or a party rejecting a mediator’s recommendations before a strike vote or lockout poll can be taken.

Labour Tribunals

There are a number of tribunals available to help resolve disputes in collective bargaining.

Voluntary Arbitration Board

If a collective agreement cannot be achieved through negotiations, with or without the assistance of a mediator, Voluntary Interest Arbitration can be considered.

This option is available at any time during the collective bargaining negotiation process. This applies to any kind of bargaining, public or private sector, whether the right to strike/lockout exists, whether there are significant differences between the parties, and whether a dispute strike/lockout is imminent or underway. Both parties must agree to this process.

Arbitration is binding. This means the parties must abide by, and live with the arbitration decision. If the parties agree to voluntary arbitration, they must notify the Minister.

The parties may then appoint either a one or three-member voluntary arbitration board. If the parties do not appoint a board, either party may notify the Minister who will direct them to do so. If the parties...
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