When a union is certified to represent a group of employees, it's the exclusive bargaining agent for those employees. This means the employer must negotiate terms and conditions of employment that will form a collective agreement with the union; it can't negotiate directly with the employees. The same principle applies where an employer is a member of an employers' association—the union can't negotiate directly with the employer, it must negotiate with the employers' association.
Under the Labour Relations Code (the Code), it's the union and the employer bargaining committees that are required to reach an agreement in collective bargaining.
There is one exception to the strict bargaining agency of the trade union and an employer association. An employer or a trade union can ask the Labour Relations Board to allow the employees or a group of employers to vote on the last proposal for a collective agreement that was given to the other side.
If the vote is successful, the last offer proposal becomes the collective agreement between the parties.
When can a party apply for a last offer vote?
An application for a last offer vote must be made before a strike or lockout has started. If a strike or lockout has already started, an application for a last offer vote can't be made without permission from the Minister of Labour.
A party can't apply for a last offer vote before it has presented its last offer proposal to the other party and has given the other party a reasonable opportunity to review it.
A party can only apply once for a last offer vote in a round of collective bargaining.
What must a party include with the last offer vote application?
An application for a last offer vote must include a copy of the last offer in a form that identifies all of the changes that are being proposed in a way that makes it clear to the voters what changes they are being asked to accept. It must not include editorial comments about the changes.
How does a party apply for a last offer vote?
- To apply for a last offer vote complete Form 78: Application for a Last Offer Vote
- Submit the application by email, mail, or courier to the attention of the Associate Chair of Mediation
- Include a copy of the last offer and previous collective agreement
- Serve the other party as set out in the Rules
- Pay the $100 filing fee
Before accepting an application for filing, the Associate Chair must be satisfied that:
- there is no active strike or lockout
- if accepted, the last offer could form the basis of a collective agreement
- the last offer is in a form that can be easily understood by the voters
- a last offer vote hasn't already been held with respect to the same dispute
Once the Associate Chair is satisfied all the application requirements have been met, they will:
- tell the applicant to give a copy of the last offer to the voters, and
- notify the parties that the vote is being ordered.
The Board will generally not review the substance of a last offer before ordering a vote.
What if a party has an objection to an application for a last offer vote?
If a party objects to a last offer vote on either procedural or other grounds, they must advise the Board of the objection as soon as possible after they've received notice the application has been filed.
Where a party objects to a last offer application or the holding of a vote, the Board may either:
- hear the objection on an expedited basis before ordering that the vote be held, or
- hold the vote but order that it not be counted until the objection is resolved.
What is the voting process?
Last offer votes are conducted in accordance with the Labour Relations Regulation, Division 1 - Votes Directed by Board or Minister.
Can a party apply more than once for a last offer vote?
The Board can only order one last offer vote with respect to a given collective bargaining dispute.
If the Board holds a last offer vote, but then dismisses the application after a successful objection without counting the ballots, it still counts as the one opportunity for a last offer vote. A second vote will only be ordered if:
- the Board, when dismissing the initial application, directed that a second vote may be ordered, or
- the Board exercises its discretion to order a second vote because, in its view, it is consistent with Code principles to do so.
Leading decisions provide useful information on how the Labour Relations Board applies the Labour Relations Code (the Code) and information on what is or is not covered by the Code.