Firefighters’ union negotiations

The City of Guelph is in contract negotiations with firefighters, represented by the Guelph Professional Firefighters Association (GPFFA).

Guelph firefighters help keep our community safe, and deserve to be paid well. The City values the important work they do, and hopes to negotiate an agreement that is:

Community safety is our first priority. Guelph’s Fire and Emergency Services will not be affected during contract negotiations.

Questions and answers

What is a collective agreement?

A collective agreement is a written contract between an employer and a group of employees represented by a union. This agreement governs the terms and conditions of employment and contains the rights, privileges and duties of the employer, the union and employees represented by the union. The City of Guelph has seven collective agreements with seven unions and 10 employee groups.

What is collective bargaining?

Collective bargaining is a process in which a union and an employer negotiate a group agreement. In this process, the parties usually focus on such issues as wages, working conditions, grievance procedures and employee benefits.

What is good-faith bargaining?

Bargaining where two parties make every reasonable effort to reach a collective agreement. Good-faith bargaining does not preclude “hard bargaining” by either party.

What is the usual outcome of collective bargaining?

Collective bargaining usually results in reaching an agreement acceptable to the union and employer through negotiations at the bargaining table. If during negotiations, the employer and the union cannot agree on the terms of a collective agreement, either the employer or the union may ask the Minister of Labour to appoint a conciliator who will then try to help the parties reach an agreement.

A union or an employer can ask the Ministry of Labour to appoint a conciliator to help resolve their differences so that they can reach a collective agreement. During negotiations parties must use the government’s conciliation services before they can get into a position to engage in a strike or lockout.

What if the employer and the union can’t reach agreement in conciliation?

The conciliator informs the Minister of Labour that a collective agreement was unable to be effected. At that point, the minister typically issues a notice informing the union and the employer that he or she “does not consider it advisable to appoint a conciliation board” (cl. 21(b) of the Act). This notice is known as a “no board”.

What further negotiation assistance is available after a “no board” notice is issued?

If the parties have not reached a settlement in the conciliation stage, the Ministry offers to provide the services of a mediator who will confer with the parties and try to help a union and an employer reach a collective agreement. Mediation is discretionary and the service is only used if both parties are amenable to it.

Is conciliation the same as arbitration?

No, conciliation should not be confused with arbitration. Arbitration is a quasi-judicial process in which a third party assesses the parties’ positions and imposes a binding settlement.

Can firefighters strike or get locked out?

Fire fighters and police have their own legislation, and are not subject to the Labour Relations Act, 1995. The Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997 (FPPA) and the Police Services Act (PSA) both place an outright ban on strikes and lock-outs. The Ministry of Labour administers the collective bargaining sections of the FPPA, while the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services is responsible for collective bargaining under the PSA.

(Content sourced Ontario Ministry of Labour and the University of Western Department of Communications and Public Affairs)

Just the facts

Sometimes what we read, see or hear doesn’t objectively reflect the facts. Collective bargaining is a complex undertaking. The City of Guelph strongly believes that providing residents and taxpayers with accurate information is not in conflict with bargaining in good faith. We intend to do both.

Good to know

Process status

The City of Guelph and Guelph Professional Firefighters’ Association (GPFFA) are heading into negotiations.

Mayor’s statement made on February 26, 2018

“Tonight Council provided staff with direction and a mandate for the upcoming union negotiations with the Guelph Professional Firefighters Association Local 467.

Council was clear in its direction. We hope to negotiate a fair, reasonable and affordable contract with our unions; one that recognizes our belief that our employees should be compensated appropriately for the valued work they do, but also one that recognizes the balance needed to ensure long term affordability for our citizens.”

Mayor Cam Guthrie, City of Guelph