Canada Employment and Immigration Union -

Union-Management consultation

Members expect their local executive to deal effectively with management. Whether the issue is staffing, training opportunities or office policies, the local executive must take the members’ interests forward with the employer. Often issues such as these are discussed at local union-management consultation meetings, and this section of the website provides tools for making those meetings more successful.

The collective agreement

The collective agreement provides for joint consultation between union and management. The current provisions of article 21 of the PA agreement read:

21.01 The parties acknowledge the mutual benefits to be derived from joint consultation and are prepared to enter into discussion aimed at the development and introduction of appropriate machinery for the purpose of providing joint consultation on matters of common interest.

21.02 Within five (5) days of notification of consultation served by either party, the Alliance shall notify the Employer in writing of the representatives authorized to act on behalf of the Alliance for consultation purposes.

21.03 Upon request of either party, the parties to this Agreement shall consult meaningfully at the appropriate level about contemplated changes in conditions of employment or working conditions not governed by this Agreement.

21.04 Without prejudice to the position the Employer or the Alliance may wish to take in future about the desirability of having the subjects dealt with by the provisions of collective agreements, the subjects that may be determined as appropriate for joint consultation will be by agreement of the parties.

Your local has the right to consultation meetings with local management, and if these meetings are not being held, the executive should take the necessary steps to initiate them. Writing management to request the establishment of regular consultation is the first move to make. Speak with a union staff representative for assistance on such matters as the development of appropriate terms of reference for the consultation process.

What can be discussed

The local can raise whatever issues it wishes at meetings, except those that are governed by the collective agreement. For example, the pay rate for a CR 05 is set by the contract, so there is no basis for raising the issue in a consultation meeting. However, if the employer is misapplying the collective agreement, perhaps through an inappropriate policy on a subject like the granting annual leave, it would be proper to bring the issue forward. Matters that bear directly on the subject of an on-going grievance are not suitable topics for consultation.

Frequency of meetings

Meetings are usually scheduled at regular intervals. For many locals, monthly meetings work best. However, when circumstances require it, emergency meetings can be held.

Who attends

Typically, the local executive attends consultation meetings for the union. Nevertheless, there may be occasions on which the union will need to bring a steward or member from the affected work area for an effective presentation.

Working with the members

The purpose of the consultation meetings is to raise issues of concern for the members. To do so effectively, a few basic steps need to be followed. First, the local executive must engage the members regularly to identify the issues requiring attention.

Second, working with the members, the executive has to develop proposals that will solve the problems identified. This may not be easy, but it is crucial to success in most cases. Saying to management “Here is a problem that we want you to fix.” is not likely to do much for your members. Management may provide a ‘solution’ that leaves your members as displeased as they were originally. Going forward with a proposal endorsed by the members gives them a measure of ownership of the solution.

Third, regardless of the outcome of the meeting with management, the local executive should quickly report to the members. Official minutes of the meeting can take days or weeks to be produced, and while they are valuable as an official record of the discussions, the executive should not rely on them as the primary method to communicate with the members.

Fourth, if the outcome on a given issue is not what the members were seeking, they must be consulted on further steps. At this point, the members must decide what they are willing to do to support their local leaders. Telling the executive to “Go back to management and ask again.” won’t work. Instead, members and local leaders must organize the necessary support that will encourage management to act in a more reasonable fashion.

What to say

The art of presenting an effective case for the union is a matter of training and practice; there is no ‘checklist’ of what to say. There are a few suggestions about what not to say however. First, if the local has developed a position on an issue, don’t make comments that directly, or indirectly, contradict or undercut that position. If management raises issues that cause the union team uneasiness about the position they had adopted, ask for a recess and work the matter out within the executive.

Try to avoid comments that divert attention from the position the union is attempting to establish. Asking management questions like “Tell us what other offices have done” can lead to a meandering tale that runs out the meeting’s clock.

A focus on detail is often needed to work through an issue with management, but good proposals can drown in a sea of petty detail. Don’t lose sight of the big picture: reaching an agreement on the solution your members want.

Regional and national consultation

Issues that have not been successfully resolved at the local level can be referred to regional and national consultation forums. Contact the national vice-president responsible for your local to discuss this option further.

A final word

Representing members in union-management consultation meetings is a significant function of the local executive. To assist local leaders, the union offers training and support. If you are new to your local executive or a veteran who wants sharpen skills, take advantage of these opportunities to improve the work you do on behalf of your members.

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