FAQs on entering FT Conciliation

FAQs on entering FT Conciliation

Are we in conciliation?

Yes.

Since March representatives of AUNBT and the Board of Governors have been bargaining for a 12th collective agreement for full-time teachers, researchers and librarians.  On July 17th the Employer applied to the minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour for the appointment of a conciliator.  At that time, AUNBT and the Employer were already in conciliation over unsettled issues at the CAE table, though a tentative agreement was subsequently reached and as of this writing the CAE agreement is going through the ratification process.

What is conciliation?

In conciliation the provincial minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour appoints a neutral third party, called a conciliation officer or conciliator, to meet with the bargaining teams on each side in order to identify the remaining disagreements, explore the goals of the various positions, and strategize how the parties might move closer together.  The conciliation officer is an employee of the province.  The province provides the conciliator’s services free of charge in order to promote smooth labour relations.

Are AUNBT’s full-time and part-time bargaining units treated together or separately?

Despite some common or overlapping issues, the two AUNBT/employer bargaining processes are legally distinct and will result in separate collective agreements.  The conciliations are separate and the conciliator appointed to the FT negotiations is not the same conciliator who worked with the CAE teams.

Can the conciliator impose an agreement on the parties?

No.  The conciliation officer’s role is to assist the parties in examining their positions and to encourage them to move towards a tentative agreement.  For this reason conciliation is most likely to be successful if the remaining issues are few and the positions of the parties relatively close.

Why is it called a “tentative” agreement?

The members give the AUNBT bargaining team a mandate to bargain but only the members can accept or reject a final agreement, so until an agreement is approved by the members it is called a tentative agreement. This approval process is called “ratification.”

How is a tentative agreement ratified?

Once a tentative agreement is reached the AUNBT bargaining team will present it to the members. The members will then vote by secret ballot, usually over more than one day in order to make the process as accessible as possible. Likewise, the Board of Governors must approve the tentative agreement. Once these parallel approval processes are successfully completed the collective agreement is considered ratified and no longer tentative.

What if conciliation fails to produce agreement?

Once conciliation gets underway, typically it does not take long.  If the parties reach agreement during conciliation, negotiations are complete. Should it become clear that there is no immediate prospect of an agreement, the conciliation officer withdraws and writes a confidential report to the minister.  At that point the minister decides whether to appoint a “Conciliation Board” that would enquire further into the differences between the parties.  Although conciliation boards are rarely appointed for labour sectors falling under the Industrial Relations Act, New Brunswick has a recent and unfortunate record of appointing them for universities; members will remember that both bargaining units went before a conciliation board during the last rounds of negotiation.  However, we remain hopeful that there will be no such intervention this round.  When not appointing a conciliation board, the minister makes what is called a “no board” announcement.

What happens after a “no board” decision?

The parties could, if they chose, continue negotiations with the assistance of a mutually-agreed-upon mediator, either retained privately or appointed by the minister of Labour.  As with the conciliation officer, a mediator’s task is to bring the parties to agreement, not to impose agreement on the parties.   Subject to the possibility of mediation or some other process to which the parties might agree, after termination of the conciliation process and the lapse of a further week as well as some statutory requirements, the Employer would be in a position to lock-out AUNBT’s full-time bargaining unit.  Equally, following a strike vote and notice, AUNBT’s full-time unit would be in a position to take job action.  However, neither a legal lock-out nor a strike would occur automatically and the parties can resume negotiations any time.

What is the time-frame for the current conciliation process?

The appointed conciliator has held preliminary meetings with each team and conciliation-proper is scheduled to begin in September. Dates have been set aside for October as well, though conciliation rarely lasts that long.

If you have any questions that have not been answered here or wish for more information, please do not hesitate to contact us at aunbt@aunbt.ca.

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  1. Job Action FAQs « AUNBT - October 28, 2013

    […] a series of short documents. At the moment it links to two texts: our earlier explanation of the conciliation process, and a new piece that offers some practical guidance for individual preparation for possible job […]