Know your collective agreement
A collective agreement, sometimes referred to as a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) or contract, is a legal contract negotiated, agreed to and signed by the employer and the union. Both the employer and the union are bound by law to abide by the terms and conditions of the collective agreement. It’s important to read and get to know your collective agreement. It will help you know what to expect at your workplace, and it will help you learn when you have been treated unfairly and need to file a grievance.
Your CBA is the “rule book” that defines working conditions and sets out the rights and responsibilities of the employer and the workers.
There is no more important document in your workplace!
Some of the provisions contained in your Collective Agreement will include:
- Definitions of employment status (permanent, part-time, casual, etc.)
- Hours of work
- Vacation leave
- Sick leave
- Grievance procedures
- Disciplinary process
There can be many more provisions in addition to these. Your agreement is unique to your bargaining unit, and may be different than contracts in other bargaining units and workplaces. If you have difficulty in understanding anything in your collective agreement, contact your steward, who can help explain things.
What should I do if I have issues in the workplace?
Sometimes you may feel like you have been treated badly by a coworker or your supervisor, or may have questions about a decision made by your employer. Other times, you may believe your boss has not followed the rules outlined in the collective agreement.
What should you do?
- Start by making some notes on what you feel the issue is, include date(s) and as much detail about the incident as possible
- Call your Steward!
Stewards are there to answer your questions and queries and provide the information you need at work. They can provide advice or information about your collective agreement, the union and workplace issues.
Do you have questions about...
- Your contract, wages, hours, benefits and rights on the job?
- Work rules and policies in your employee code of conduct?
- How your union works and who the Local union officers are?
- Member events or meetings?
- Laws that protect your rights?
ASK YOUR STEWARD!
It is especially important you contact your steward if you are called in to a meeting with your supervisor that might lead to discipline. As soon as you find out about such a meeting, notify a steward. They will provide advice and support, and will act as your representative in the meeting to help resolve problems you encounter at your workplace.
If you are not able to find a steward at your workplace, you should call the SGEU office nearest to you and someone will assist you or arrange to have a steward available.
Remember: you have the legal right to request union representation during meetings with supervisors and managers that could lead to discipline.
Once you discuss your situation with your steward, you can decide what action to take. Whether you have a question or need information, your steward can help.
Why do I need a Steward?
Stewards are members like you, often your coworkers, who volunteer to be the union’s main point-person at your workplace.
A steward is a union member responsible for handling members’ problems in the workplace, including working to resolve issues outside of the grievance process; filing grievances; attending disciplinary meetings between the members and management; educating members on union policies and activities; and getting the members involved in the union. The steward is the backbone of the union.
They are elected by members, and serve a two year term, as per the SGEU constitution.
SGEU has developed specific educational courses and material to equip stewards with hands-on skills and knowledge so they are able to carry out their responsibilities. SGEU staff and leaders are available to answer questions or assist Stewards if they need additional support.
Your steward can help you in many ways. Don’t underestimate the power of your steward – they have the same rights as your supervisor while they are representing you.
If the union and management can’t agree on a resolution, the case may become a formal grievance. When a grievance is filed, a team of SGEU staff carefully reviews the merits of the grievance and makes a recommendation whether to proceed onto the next step.
In a unionized workplace, filing a grievance when your employer is not honoring the contract is a key aspect of on-the-job problem-solving. SGEU is here to ensure all involved in the process work to resolve the grievance with professionalism and respect.
Your collective agreement outlines a fair, step-by-step process which sets timelines and procedures for resolving grievances. It is very important to file a grievance as soon as possible because your right to file a grievance expires after the defined time limit set out in your collective agreement.
A steward or the union will file a grievance on your behalf and help you understand more about the process. If you believe you have been wrongfully treated at work because of a breach of the collective agreement or federal or provincial labour legislation, contact your steward immediately.
Your Rights at Work
There are three primary areas that provide for and protect your rights at work:
- Your collective agreement
- Provincial legislation, regulations and statutes
- Federal legislation, regulations and statutes
While this page has only discussed your collective agreement, it is important to know that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is a part of the Constitution of Canada, the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code and the Saskatchewan Employment Act (SEA) may afford additional protections in the workplace.