Section 3: The Collective Agreement

October 7, 2015



10. The Collective Agreement

Written collective agreements (or contracts) specify a unionized workplace’s working conditions, wages and benefits.

Contracts are the symbol of the workers’ acceptance of the union as their bargaining agent. That’s why unions fight for good contracts, and that’s why many bitter disputes and strikes have been fought to force employers to sign contracts.

They are hammered out by representatives of the employer and the union, usually after weeks of negotiation. The bargaining committee is helped by union staff experts who know how to negotiate and know current bargaining trends. Managements use a whole battery of experts to negotiate on their behalf. 

Contracts are essentially compromises agreement between the employer and the union. That said, there are no unimportant clauses. If there were, unions wouldn't fight so hard to put them in. If you disregard one clause, or let the employer break it at will, you will have a much tougher job trying to enforce the sections you want enforced. 
The contract is like a set of rules that says, “This is the way things should be.” But, like traffic laws, the contract isn't always followed. And the contract doesn't enforce itself – that’s where stewards come in.  

The contract and the steward

It's the steward’s job to watch for contract violations and to speak on behalf of workers who are affected by those violations. If you don't enforce the contract’s provisions – through the formal process called the grievance process – then the contract is worthless. 

Not all complaints become grievances. But grievances do grow out of the problems, the dissatisfactions, complaints and hopes of the membership. By handling these problems correctly, you bring the union in close touch with the membership. Of course, there are going to be grievances you won't know how to handle. When this happens, don't be afraid to ask for advice. 

Watch the video: What’s so important about the collective agreement?

[[{“fid”:”793″,”view_mode”:”default”,”fields”:{“format”:”default”},”type”:”media”,”link_text”:”CLC WhatsSoImportantAboutCollectiveAgreement FINALv2″,”attributes”:{“class”:”file media-element file-default”}}]]


[[{“fid”:”804″,”view_mode”:”default”,”fields”:{“format”:”default”,”field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]”:””,”field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]”:””},”type”:”media”,”link_text”:null,”attributes”:{“height”:”315″,”width”:”303″,”style”:”width: 33px; height: 34px;”,”class”:”media-element file-default”}}]]