Case 4: Bad Faith Bargaining? Government Power and Negotiations with the Public Service
Jordan, Phoebe, Cosmas, & Samantha
Arbitration - a procedure in which a dispute is submitted, by agreement of the parties, to one or more arbitrators who make a binding decision on the dispute. In choosing arbitration, the parties opt for a private dispute resolution procedure instead of going to court
Conciliation - an alternative out-of-court dispute resolution instrument. Like mediation, conciliation is a voluntary, flexible, confidential, and interest based process. The parties seek to reach an amicable dispute settlement with the assistance of the conciliator, who acts as a neutral third party
- Assess the impact of the Federal Government policy on labour relations in the public sector
- Consider issues of power and ethics within the public sector and how they affect Unions
- Gain further understanding of conflict and negotiation within the public sector
- 1967 the Canadian government gave federal public service unions the right to choose whether to settle contract disputes by arbitration or strike
- 2013 Tony Clement (Treasury Board President) changed the Labour Relations Act by sweeping reforms with new rules that seemed to favour the government
- the new rules gave the federal government (rather that the Unions) the power to decide whether individual disputes are solved by arbitration or conciliation
- Federal Public Service Unions are concerned that the government can force them into conciliation (and possible strike) even if the members believe the problem could be solved with arbitration
- The new rules decrease the power of Unions and make it more likely that affected Union members will agree to concessions (if they consider a strike undesirable)
2014 Clement announced the government would revamp the public service's sick leave policy:
- under new collective bargaining rules federal public service unions are seriously limited in resolving any disputes over sick leave
- under previous existing policy Union members received 15 days of paid sick leave which they could "bank" by carrying over unused days to subsequent years
- these banked days could help employees through prolonged illness or injuries before they become eligible for long-term disability
- Clement found significant liabilities with this policy as the banked sick leave was valued at $5.2 billion
- Clement believes replacing this policy with a short-term disability plan would ensure that everyone's needs are met
- Clement also citied absenteeism as an issue with sick leave policy with workers having temptation to use banked sick leave for other purposes (sick leave abuse)
The Scenario Concluded
- As a result 17 federal public service unions signed a "solidarity pledge" agreeing that they would not surrender their current sick leave benefits
What happened next?
- This case study concludes December 2014 questioning the future conflict that may arise once these union contracts expire
- April 17, 2015 Negotiators for union members are told by Treasury Board that the federal government cannot meet its proposed implementation date of September 1st, 2016 for the new Short Term Disability plan
- Today, a new set of bargaining proposals related to sick leave have been been provided by the Treasury Board to be reviewed by the union leaders
1. What does it mean to bargain in “bad faith” vs “good faith"?
2. Do these collective bargaining rules for federal public service unions introduced by Clement represent an abuse of government power? Was this an example of bad faith bargaining?
3. Have any negotiation errors been made by the unions in relation to the federal sick leave reform? (Consider the steps to negotiation)
4. How could the government, as an employer, proceed to develop a more trusting relationship with employees under the new rules for collective bargaining? Why is collective bargaining important for business?
5. Which of the conflict management strategies do you think applies most to this case study? Explain.