The Unionizing Process: Collective Bargaining and Securing a First Contract

Unions are based around one simple fact – people are more powerful together than they are alone. Unions give a voice to workers who may have otherwise been ignored. One of the most practical ways that we do this is through collective bargaining.

What is collective bargaining?

In a typical employment situation, one employee doesn’t have a lot of power when it comes to negotiating the terms of their employment. Whether you’re asking for a raise, more vacation days, or better benefits, these conversations can be extremely difficult to have with an employer. And getting a favourable outcome from a conversation like this is even more challenging.

With collective bargaining: workers get together, have an opportunity to voice their concerns to one another, and discuss the changes they would like to see. After this, a representative then negotiates on behalf of the collective workers. Now, an employer is not dealing with one employee that they can easily dismiss, they are dealing with the entire collective and must work towards an agreement.

How does it work?

Once a workplace unionizes, one of the first steps is negotiating that first collective bargaining agreement. Here are some examples of what that agreement can include:

  • Compensation and benefits that put the employees first
  • Performance review systems that fairly assess employees
  • Protections for whistleblowers who speak out against the employer
  • Training and mentoring for skills improvement and career advancement

Negotiations can take time and involve a lot of back and forth, so it’s important that workplaces put together a negotiation committee. The purpose of the negotiation committee is to ensure all negotiations are kept on track, and that the interests of union members are protected throughout the process.

Once you enter into the negotiations, both sides are legally obligated to keep the process fair and honest. However, it’s important to remember that even if both sides are trying their best, it can take quite some time to reach an agreement.

Negotiating that first contract can be challenging and you’ll need a lot of patience during these early stages. But it’s important to know your rights.

Thinking of unionizing? Or want to know more about negotiating that first contract? We’re here every step of the way: get in touch with us.

What’s next in the process: 5 Steps to Organization Your Co-Workers

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