Collective Bargaining 101

Collective bargaining is a process used by employers and unions to arrive at an agreement regarding terms and conditions of employment. The PEA is the exclusive bargaining agent for members.

Pre-Bargaining

Step one: The PEA conducts research. This can include: terms and conditions from other collective agreements; market-based compensation comparators; economic indicators including unemployment, consumer price index, the economy, the employer’s financial outlook and the political climate.

Step two: The bargaining committee is elected or appointed anywhere from six to nine months before the expiration of the current collective agreement.

Step three: A bargaining survey is conducted. The survey has the largest impact on the formulation of bargaining proposals. Other consultation processes, such as membership meetings or conferences, may be held.

Step four: The bargaining committee drafts proposals. Proposals represent ideal language and are developed by reviewing past grievances, previous collective bargaining proposals, as well as proposals from members and results of the bargaining survey. A summary of the proposals is presented to members in advance of bargaining.

Bargaining

  • The employer or the PEA serves notice to bargain at any time within four months of the expiry of the collective agreement. Once the notice is sent, the PEA and the employer set a series of dates to exchange proposals and begin negotiations.
     
  • Bargaining generally advances through a series of meetings with each side having an opportunity to present and make arguments for their proposals. It should be noted that even the strongest arguments aren’t always enough for a proposal to be accepted.
     
  • Proposals are usually amended by both parties as they go back and forth across the table until a mutual agreement is made on the language. PEA Labour Relation Officers are responsible for acting as the lead spokesperson. The PEA updates members during the bargaining process through bargaining bulletins and member meetings.

Impasse

  • An impasse is reached between the two sides when the desired outcomes have not been achieved.
  • Either party may request the assistance of a mediator from the BC Labour Relations Board. A mediator’s role is to promote objectivity and compromise, moving the parties away from their polarized positions. The mediator can make recommendations but does not have the authority to force a settlement.

Strike Vote

  • In order to gain more power at the bargaining table, the bargaining committee may recommend that the membership take a strike vote. Where possible, a membership meeting will be held to discuss the reasons for this action.
     
  • It is important that a strike vote has a strong majority of members supporting it. A high percentage of members voting in favour of a strike signals to the employer that members are willing to support their bargaining team in achieving their desired outcomes. The union may take job action up to three months following a positive strike vote, after having served a 72-hour notice to the employer.
     
  • The terms and conditions of an expired collective agreement remain in effect until a new collective agreement is reached.

Job Action

  • If the strike vote does not provide enough leverage for an agreement to be reached between the employer and the PEA, the bargaining committee may determine job action is needed.
     
  • There are many kinds of job action under the Labour Relations Code. Job action could include:
    • a refusal to work overtime or restricting work,

    • working to rule by strictly following the terms and conditions of the collective agreement,

    • rotating strike where different worksites stop working and picket at different times, or

    • full strike when all members of a bargaining unit stop working and picket locations.

  • A strike is the withholding of labour by workers to place pressure on the employer. The right to strike is established by law so any employee who is participating in a lawful strike cannot be disciplined by the employer for doing so.
     
  • The PEA will ask all members of the striking bargaining unit to participate as the strength of numbers determines the effectiveness of the job action.
     
  • If a strike occurs at your worksite by another union, you will be expected to show support, but you will not be required to strike with them.

Employer Lockout
A lockout is when the employer stops members from working, which applies economic pressure in an attempt to make members give in to the employer’s demands. 

Strike and Lockout Pay

Visit https://pea.org/resources/job-action for details on strike pay and benefit reimbursement.

If there is the possibility of a strike or lockout in your future, it is vital to budget accordingly and plan personal finances and obligations. The employer is required to pay member earnings up to the date the strike commences on the next normal pay day.

 

Settlement

  • A tentative settlement can occur either at the bargaining table, in mediation or following a strike or lockout. If at any point in the negotiations, the bargaining committee feels confident in the collective agreement they have negotiated, they may bring an offer to the members of the bargaining unit for a ratification vote.
     
  • Negotiated settlements must be submitted to members for a vote and ratification.
     
  • If members vote to reject the settlement, the bargaining committee will meet to consider its options. Normally, the only way to improve on a settlement that has been rejected is to seek a strike vote from members.
     
  • If both employer and members ratify the collective agreement, the tentative agreement becomes enforceable and the new agreement is in effect until a mutually-agreed on expiration date.

In this section

The PEA was formed in 1974, by a group of professionals working in the public sector. The story goes that the founders of the union mortgaged their houses to fund negotiations of the union’s first collective agreement. 

Now, the PEA is BC’s union for professionals. We represent a wide range of professionals including lawyers, foresters, engineers, agrologists, teachers, veterinarians, fundraisers, physiotherapists, pharmacists, psychologists program managers, librarians and more.

Our union is led by the PEA Executive. They represent members from across the chapters of the PEA and set the overall vision and direction for our union.

Resources for our members

Navigating a union can sometime be a challenging process. Under this section of the website you will find resources to help you navigate the PEA. In the members section you'll find expense claim reimbursements, information on the PEA's scholarship and bursary program and our grants and donations program.

Collective bargaining and job action resources explain the process of collective bargaining and what to do in the unlikely event of job action. 

Local reps can also find resources to help them complete their job more effectively. This includes ways to welcome new members, how to take notes in investigation disciplinary meetings and more.

The heart of our union

The PEA is made up of nine chapters, or groups of members who either work for the same employer or are in the same field of work. Each chapter has an elected executive tasked with running the affairs of the chapter. Each chapter is entitled to representation at the PEA Executive, the governing body of the union. 

Our members work for a range of employers: the Province of BC, the University of Victoria, St. Margaret's School, the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program, the Oil and Gas Commission, the Law Society of BC, Legal Services Society, the Okangan Regional Library and health authorities across BC.

Professionals need unions now more then ever

Since the 1970’s, when the PEA was formed, our mission has been to ensure our members can work in safe, productive environments and receive fair and reasonable wages and benefits for the valuable work they do. We help individuals and groups of professional workers to understand the challenges they face in their workplaces and some of the solutions available to them. 

We work with potential members to become certified as a union and achieve the wages, benefits and respect they deserve. 

The Professional | Volume 48 Issue 1

The Professional is the PEA's award-winning, quarterly magazine for members.

The Spring 2022 issue takes a deep dive into the work of GLP members and their work during provincial emergencies.

Read the latest issue

 

 

The PEA was formed in 1974 to represent licensed professionals in the BC Public Service. Since then the organization has grown to include a wide range of professionals from across BC. Find our more about our governance, staff and strategic direction.

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