School Boards Collective Bargaining Act Enshrines Two-Tiered Bargaining

April 11, 2014 | Gillian Tuck Kutarna

In our Education Newsletter of October, 2013 we outlined the key features of Bill 122, which provides a framework for a two-tiered bargaining system.  On April 7, 2014, Bill 122 passed third reading at the legislature, establishing the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, and the Act has now received Royal Assent.

The most significant feature of the new Act is the formal division of local and central bargaining, each of which is specifically defined.

The Act provides for the mandatory establishment of central tables for teachers’ bargaining units, and in specified circumstances, requires the Minister to establish a central table for other bargaining units.  The Crown must participate in each central bargaining table.

The scope of what will constitute centrally bargained terms is to be determined by the parties at the table and by the Crown, with a right to apply to the Ontario Labour Relations Board in the event of a dispute.

Central terms will be negotiated by employees’ bargaining agencies on behalf of teachers and other employee groups, and by the Trustees Associations on behalf of school boards.  Trustees’ Associations or Councils of Trustees Associations will be required to establish policies and procedures.  If in the Minister’s opinion a Trustee Association is unable or unwilling to act as the school boards’ bargaining agent, the Lieutenant Governor in Council may establish a committee to take their place.

If a vote by a Trustee Association is required, for example to ratify a negotiated agreement, the outcome must be approved by a majority of the school boards represented, using a method of voting which is weighted to reflect the size of the bargaining units within each school board.

School Boards may be required by regulation to pay fees to Trustee Associations for activities carried on under the Act.  The regulation may also define how the amount of such fees is to be determined, and the consequences of failing to pay, which could include the forfeiture of the right to participate in a vote.

Any matters not within the scope of central bargaining at a central table will be bargained locally between individual school boards and each local employees bargaining agent.  The Crown will not be entitled to participate in local bargaining.

If both central and local bargaining occur, the terms of a collective agreement must be ratified by the parties at the central table, and agreed to by the Crown.  A memorandum of settlement which is reached through local bargaining need only be ratified by the local parties.

Where a dispute arising from any term of a collective agreement containing a centrally negotiated term is referred to arbitration, the Crown is entitled to intervene.  Any resolution of such a dispute which results in a settlement agreement must be approved by the Crown.

Collective agreements reached between a school board and a bargaining agent will come into force on September 1 of the year in which the previous agreement expired, and shall have  a three-year term of operation, unless by regulation the Minister specifies a term of either two or four years.

Collective Agreements in the education sector are due to expire on August 31, 2014. The passage of the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act therefore comes in time to provide some much needed certainty to a process which in recent years has frequently been unclear.

A more detailed analysis of the implications of the new system will be discussed at our upcoming Morning Recess webinar on April 17 at 10:00.

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