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  5. The Collective Agreement
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  3. Local Union Presidents and VP's
  4. Stewards Guide
  5. The Collective Agreement

A collective agreement is a written contract negotiated between an employer and a union which sets out terms and conditions of employment. It is legally enforceable.

Your collective agreement is the result of a struggle between the needs of employers and the needs of workers. The collective agreement is a record of how much progress a group of workers has been able to make in previous rounds of bargaining and how much the employer has been able to hold back. It establishes the minimum that a worker should expect from an employer during the life of the agreement.

Grievances are how we protect and enforce those minimums and the minimums that workers are entitled to under law. We need to remember that what’s in our Collective Agreement doesn’t usually reflect all that we think we are entitled to, or the pinnacle of fairness – rather, it reflects what we’ve been able to negotiate at this point in time. So when we file a grievance we are simply making sure that management lives up to what’s been agreed to until the next round of bargaining, when we’ll try to make it an even better or stronger agreement.

The grievance procedure is also our formal mechanism for enforcing workplace and human rights laws (these laws are considered to be part of the collective agreement, even though they’re not spelled out in writing in the agreement).

With all this in mind, we still need to remember that grievances can’t be the only focus of our work as workplace representatives. There are many opportunities during the life of a collective agreement that provide a chance for additional gains – particularly around day-to-day issues such as working conditions and rules of work.

Often times our collective agreement language is written in a legal lingo that can be difficult to understand. The legal lingo can feel intimidating. Figuring it out takes some practice but the more we use it the easier it becomes to understand and the better we get at using it to defend workers’ rights.

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