Collective Bargaining Process

How Does The Collective Bargaining Process Work?

  1. Committees are formed to represent the interests of each Bargaining Unit, AD, AS, CS, PG, OP, TO.
  2. Bargaining proposals are formulated based on membership input and current trends.
  3. Bargaining team members are selected from the committee membership.
  1. A bargaining team consists of committee members, an Executive Officer of the RCEA and a Negotiator, normally RCEA staff.
  2. The bargaining team will meet with representatives of NRC to negotiate mutual proposals.
  3. Negotiations would conclude when the bargaining team is prepared to recommend acceptance or rejection of the proposed changes to the Collective Agreement.

What Happens Once We Reach a Tentative Agreement?

Once a tentative agreement is reached, the following steps must be taken:

StepsTime Period
RCEA Steps
RCEA prepares ratification and voting kit, has it translated, printed and sent out. 3 weeks
Voting time and counting of ballots. Notification to NRC of result. 2 weeks
NRC Steps
NRC has to obtain a non-objection letter from Treasury Board – They have to satisfy themselves that NRC acted within its mandate4-6 weeks
Once NRC receives this letter, they must get Ministerial agreement and recommendation for an Order-in-Council approval.
Order-in-Council approval.
Up to 6 months
Final Step
Signing of new agreement.

After signing of the agreement, retroactive pay calculations will commence.  The timeline for this can vary between groups.

The RCEA is able to complete its required actions following the conclusion of a tentative agreement in around 5 weeks.  After that, the process moves to NRC and the RCEA has no control over how long that process will take.  As a Separate Employer, NRC faces a more rigorous approval process than the Core Public Service.  They are also legally required to Order-in-Council approval from the Governor-in-Council and this requirement extends the process.

What Happens If We Don’t We Reach a Tentative Agreement?

There are 2 dispute resolution methods available under the Federal Public Sector Labor Relations Act (FPSLRA): arbitration or conciliation.

A bargaining agent may choose arbitration or conciliation for resolving disputes that could arise during collective bargaining for a bargaining unit.  The bargaining agent can change its choice from one bargaining round to the next.

Regardless of the dispute resolution method the bargaining agent chose, the parties may request a mediator to help them with their negotiations.  At any time, if requested or on his or her initiative, the FPSLREB’s chairperson may appoint a mediator to confer with the parties and to promote a settlement.


If the bargaining agent chose arbitration as the dispute resolution method, either party may request that an arbitration board be established.  The FPSLREB’s chairperson establishes them, and they consist of either one person or a panel of three.  The FPSLREB’s chairperson must inform the arbitration board in writing of the matters in dispute that it must determine.  In most cases, the parties will have agreed beforehand to many terms and conditions of employment before resorting to arbitration.  When conducting proceedings and rendering its decision, an arbitration board must consider a number of factors, including the conditions of employment in similar occupations outside the public service, the need to maintain appropriate relationships between classification levels in the public service, and the state of the Canadian economy and of the government’s fiscal circumstances.  An arbitral award is binding on the employer, the bargaining agent, and the employees in the bargaining unit and forms a supplement to the collective agreement.  It is effective as of the date it is issued.


Conciliation recognizes that employees in a bargaining unit have the right to strike under certain conditions, which is why it is often termed the “conciliation/strike route”.  If the parties cannot reach an agreement, and the bargaining agent’s choice of dispute resolution is “conciliation/strike”, the Minister may establish a public interest commission (PIC) on the FPSLREB chairperson’s recommendation.  A PIC may be composed of one person or a panel of three.  Its chairperson is selected from a list of candidates that the FPSLREB’s chairperson has prepared following consultation with the parties.  Within 30 days of being established, the PIC must submit its recommendations to the FPSLREB’s chairperson, who will then make the report public.

If the PIC’s recommendations do not bring about a settlement to the dispute, the FPSLRA requires that a secret-ballot strike vote be held before a strike may be called.  All the employees in the bargaining unit have the right, and must be given the opportunity, to vote.  The bargaining agent may authorize or declare a strike only within the 60 days following the vote, provided it received the support of the majority of the employees in the bargaining unit.