Nothing seems to drive a collective bargaining process into the ground more than the perception that one of the parties is not playing by the rules. A key principle, that is enshrined in the legal process of collective bargaining, is the concept of bargaining in good faith.
It is, in fact, more than just a concept.
When parties agree to bargain in good faith, they agree to honour the rules that they make with each other before the bargaining process even begins. These mutually agreed upon rules include items such as how communication will happen to each of the parties’ respective constituencies and, in the case of public sector bargaining, how information will be communicated to the public at large. The setting of the ground rules between the parties is as serious as the content and the issues that are discussed at the bargaining table. Setting the ground rules for bargaining is part of the legal environment and processes that enable fair, honest, and open negotiations to take place.
As with all kinds of rule based settings, when one of the parties appears to be breaking the rules or does not seem to be playing by the rules, the other party gets upset. When this happens, the other party typically reacts in a negative way, which is not a surprise! Suddenly, the issues at the table take second place, as the negotiations process stalls and hostile allegations of bad faith bargaining start to take hold.
This seems to be the case as the collective bargaining process continues to unfold in the education sector in Ontario.
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What makes this particular bargaining process more complex is that there are three parties at bargaining table: the government, the union, and the provincial association representing public school boards. Resolutions to these types of allegations and bargaining processes are never easy. Hopefully, all of the parties will be able to see their way through the layers of complexity and conflict in order to find a way to negotiate and to honour the bargaining process between them.
- What was the agreed upon rule that appears to have been broken?
- What are the possible implications of filing a claim of bad faith with the Labour Board?
- Why is the issue of communication so important to each of the parties in this process?
- As a member of one of the bargaining teams, what steps would you take to resolve these allegations?