Of the various tools to advance equity available to the association, collective bargaining is one of the most important. The ability it provides to set the terms and conditions of employment can play a huge role in overcoming discriminatory practices in the workplace.
- Collective bargaining can confront discrimination directly − for example, by negotiating or strengthening anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, employment equity, and duty to accommodate clauses.
- Collective bargaining can also address equity through broader issues, such as pension rights and tenure requirements, where marginalized academic staff may face additional challenges.
Despite its importance, not all bargaining unit members are fully aware of the collective agreement, and the steps required to negotiate one. The basics are:
- Collective bargaining is a process overseen by the law with steps and timelines that enable employees as a group to negotiate, through their association, with their employer.
- The point of these negotiations is to reach a legally enforceable collective agreement containing the terms and conditions of employment.
- Collective agreements typically have a term of two or three years, after which they expire and must be renegotiated.
- The negotiation process is led on the association side by a bargaining team consisting of elected or appointed individuals with the job of implementing the will of the membership at the negotiating table.
Collective bargaining is a power relationship. Its success requires shifting power in the employees’ favour through group action. To accomplish this, the association must represent all constituencies effectively and give the membership ownership of the process. This requires a strategy based on equity, inclusion, and democratic participation.