Union Terminology


What is “ratification”? How does this work?

Ratification by the union is the process by which members of the bargaining unit vote to accept or reject the terms of the collective agreement that the hospitals and unions have negotiated. The ratification vote happens at the end of collective bargaining, after the hospitals and the unions have reached a tentative agreement.

 The voting process by bargaining unit members constitutes the ratification of the collective agreement. A new contract can only be signed and become effective following the ratification of both parties.

Ratification Vote –when the committee feels it has reached an agreement with management that they feel that they can bring it back to the membership, a Special General Membership Meeting (SGMM) is called to discuss and initiate the ratification vote that takes place over two days. If the ratification vote is affirmative the new collective agreement comes into effect. If the members turn down the agreement the bargaining committee goes back to the table. Under the Labour Relations Act, the Employer can force a vote to the membership on their “final offer,” however the Employer can only do so once.

Abeyance -to defer hearing a grievance for a specific period of time until a legal decision has been made on the same issue.

Arbitrary -not showing consistency. Dealing with one matter one way then dealing with the same circumstance totally different next time.

Arbitration -the method of settling employment disputes through recourse to an impartial party from the Labour Board, whose decision is final and binding.

Arbitrator –the impartial third party appointed through the Labour Board that the parties submit their grievances to for a decision (award). This person is usually selected by mutual consent.

Bargaining Agent -the Union that named as the exclusive representative for all the people covered, or who will be covered by the agreement.

Collective Agreement, Agreement, Contract –a legally-binding written contract, arrived at through the process of negotiation, which covers the employee’s wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment. A written agreement between the Union and the Employer is for a definite term, defining conditions of employment (wages, hours, benefits, working conditions, etc.) rights of employees and the processes for resolving disputes or handling issues that arise during the term of the agreement.

Collective Bargaining –a process where the Union and Employer, make offers and counter-offers back and forth regarding their employment relationship, for the purpose of making a mutually acceptable agreement, and the execution of a written document.

Duty of Fair Representation –unions have an obligation in handling grievances in a manner that is not arbitrary, discriminatory, or in bad faith.

Estoppel -a long running practice that is acknowledged by both parties that one party is now trying to change to the determent of the other party.

Exclusive Negotiation Rights -the right and obligation of Union to negotiate collectively for all employees, including non-members, in the Unit.

Final Offer –under the Labour Relations Act, the Employer can force a vote of the collective agreement to the membership on their “final offer,” however the Employer can only do so once.

Grievance -there are four kinds of grievances that can be filed, individual, group, policy and union grievances. The most common kind of grievance is an individual grievance.

  • Individual Grievances – Individual grievances relate to the interpretation or application of a collective agreement or arbitral award or any matter affecting the terms and conditions of a specific individual’s employment, such as disciplinary action, demotion, termination, suspension or financial penalty.
  • Group Grievance – A group grievance may be presented when two or more employees in a single department or agency are similarly affected by the interpretation or application of a collective agreement or arbitral award. Employees are able to opt into a group grievance referred by their bargaining agent. Employees may decide later that they no longer wish to participate in the group grievance and opt out.
  • Policy Grievance – A policy grievance relates to the interpretation or application of a collective agreement or an arbitral award. Either the bargaining agent or the employer can refer a policy grievance.
  • Union Grievance – This grievance involves the issue where the union’s rights have been violated. The grievance would be from the union itself. An example of this is whereby the employer did not deduct union dues.

Interest Arbitration –a process whereby the parties submit unresolved contract to an impartial third party who will render a final and binding decision on the terms and conditions of a collective agreement.

Ontario Labour Relations Act –the provincial legislation that governs the process of bargaining, as well as other rules governing unions and the administration of collective agreements.