Ontario Labour Relations Act Reforms Underway

On June 1, 2017, Bill 148, The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 was tabled in legislature. The measures amend the Labour Relations Act and include some of the following:

1. Union certification

  • Establish card-based union certification rather than voting, for the temporary-help agency industry, the building services sector and home-care and community services industry.
  • Make the following changes to the union certification process:
    • Eliminating certain conditions for remedial union certification-allowing unions to more easily get certified when an employer engages in misconduct that contravenes the LRA;
    • Making access to first contract arbitration easier, and also adding an intensive mediation component to the process; and
    • Requiring the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) to address first contract mediation-arbitration applications before dealing with displacement and decertification applications.
  • Allow unions to access employee lists and certain contact information, provided the union can demonstrate that it has already achieved the support of 20 percent of employees involved.
  • Expressly empower the OLRB to conduct votes outside the workplace, including electronically and by telephone.
  • Empower the OLRB to authorize Labour Relations Officers to give directions relating to the voting process and voting arrangements in order to help assure the neutrality of the voting process.

2. Successor rights

  • Extend successor rights to the retendering of building services contracts.
  • Enable the government to apply this expanded notion of successor rights, by regulation, to the retendering of other publicly funded contracted services.

3. Structure of bargaining units

  • Allow the OLRB to change the structure of bargaining units within a single employer and where the existing bargaining units are no longer appropriate for collective bargaining.
  • Allow the OLRB to consolidate newly certified bargaining units with other existing bargaining units under a single employer and where those units are represented by the same bargaining agent.

4. Return-to-work rights and procedures

  • Remove the six-month limitation. Currently, the LRA gives employees the right, under certain conditions, to return to work within six months of the commencement of a lawful strike.
  • Require an employer to reinstate an employee at the conclusion of a legal strike or lockout (subject to certain conditions), and to provide access to grievance arbitration for the enforcement of that obligation.

5. Just cause protection

  • Protect employees from being disciplined or discharged without just cause by their employer in the period between certification and conclusion of a first contract, and during the period between the date the employees are in a legal strike or lockout position and the new collective agreement.

6. Fines

  • Increase maximum fines under the Labour Relations Act to $5,000 for individuals and $100,000 for organizations (from the current $2,000 for individuals and $25,000 for organizations).

7. Exemptions

The Ministry of Labour will work with affected ministries to consult with stakeholders to review the Special Advisors' recommendation to remove the exclusions under the LRA taking into account ongoing litigation.

For employers

If Bill 148 is enacted, all labour relations proposals would be in effect six months after it comes into force. As the Bill progresses in legislature, we will provide additional input on amendments to the Bill and how employers, unions, HR and payroll professionals should prepare.

As for opinion pieces on the changes and on union and business reaction to Bill 148, I would strongly suggest you read Dr. Doorey’s blog posts (I could not have written better pieces):

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