Renegotiate, Renew, Repeat

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We live in a world that is full of cyclical patterns and connections. The world spins on its rotation around the sun. The seasons change and then they change again. The monthly calendar renews itself each year. Each day begins, ends, and then begins again with an opportunity to make the new day better than the day before.

It is within this construct of cyclical patterns that we observe the timing of bargaining the renewal of collective agreements. Unless the parties to a collective agreement are setting up an initial contract, the process of bargaining is based on a continuing cycle that re-negotiates the terms of that original agreement. Once the terms are agreed for the renewal, both parties know that they have a limited time to live with what was agreed to and that there is an opportunity to try to change items that are unsatisfactory, for either party, in the next round.

Within this type of a cyclical process, we must expect to see the patterns of negotiations repeating themselves and not be surprised by the steps that either party may take during the collective agreement renewal process.

A good example of this can be found in the negotiating patterns of the LCBO (the employer) and OPSEU (the union) in Ontario. The expiry date for the current collective agreement between these two parties is imminent. While they are in the process of negotiations, the union has set a strike deadline for the end of April 2017. LCBO workers are threatening to walk off the job if the terms of renewal are not agreed.

The very same process occurred in 2013, which was the last time these two parties met at the bargaining table.

Click here to read about the 2017 bargaining process between LCBO and OPSEU.

Click here to read about the 2013 bargaining process between LCBO and OPSEU.

It is interesting to read and compare the fact situations (and the perceptions) of each party between the last round of bargaining and this one. While some of the issues raised in the current round of bargaining may be a bit different, the end goal for both the union and the employer is the same. Both parties need to reach an agreement that they can live with until the bargaining cycle begins again.

Discussion Questions:

  1. After reading both articles, what similarities are in place on the employer (LCBO) side?
  2. What are the messages from the union about the employer in both articles? Are there any differences between 2013 and 2017?
  3. What issues are matters of concern in this latest round of bargaining?
  4. What leverage does each party have in order to reach a renewal to the collective agreement?

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