On April 6th, the Employer filed for conciliation with Units 1, 2, and 3, despite ongoing progress at the bargaining table. The CUPE 3903 Bargaining Team is disappointed in this decision, which raises serious doubts about the Employer’s commitment to good faith bargaining.
Filing for conciliation is one of the steps in collective bargaining in Ontario. Conciliation means that the parties have arrived at an impasse. Either the Employer or the Union can ask the Minister of Labour, Training, and Skills Development to appoint a conciliation officer, with the goal of having a third party facilitate negotiations. The Conciliator is then in a position to file a “no-board” report if conciliation does not produce an agreement. The release of the no-board report starts a 17-day countdown towards a legal strike or lock-out position. This is why, while there is no time limit for how long conciliation can last, filing for conciliation is a form of escalation.
Filing for conciliation now is completely premature. We are not at an impasse in bargaining, and we were, until this morning, under the impression that future bargaining sessions would be capable of producing further agreement on key issues. We had our first sign-offs just last week, and both the Employer and CUPE 3903 have proposals awaiting response. Each party responding once is not enough to determine an impasse. Mediation on Unit 2 job security issues is ongoing, and we have scheduled bargaining dates throughout the month of April.
The Employer’s sudden and aggressive move makes us question whether they are engaged in good-faith bargaining. If we are truly at an impasse, why has the Employer agreed to a series of bargaining meetings during the coming month, with expressed desire to reach agreement on more issues after last week’s sign-offs? This action by the Employer will negatively colour future bargaining meetings.
Considering the above, the Union is consulting with legal counsel, and the BT is holding a meeting on April 8 to evaluate our options and next steps. We remain committed to reaching a fair, collectively bargained agreement for Units 1, 2, and 3.