Unilateral amendments During the period of application of a collective agreement, the employer may not change a condition of employment that is subject to mandatory negotiation without first negotiating with the union (29 U.S.C.A. § 158[d]). Even after the collective agreement expires, the employer must maintain the status quo and not unilaterally change the mandatory bargaining matters until the parties are at an impasse (Louisiana Dock Co. v. NLRB, 909 F.2d 281 [7th Cir. 1990]). This prohibition on unilateral amendments persists even though the employer disputes that the union is the sole representative (Livingston Pipe & Tube v. NLRB, 987 F.2d 422 [7th Cir. 1993]; NLRB v. Parents & Friends of the Specialized Living Center, 879 F.2d 1442 [7th Cir. 1989]).
As soon as negotiations between the parties „exhaust the prospect of an agreement” in good faith, the parties are at an impasse and the implementation of unilateral changes to working conditions does not constitute an unfair labour practice (NLRB v. Plainville Ready Mix Concrete Co., 44 F.3d 1320 [6th Cir. 1995]; United Paperworkers International Union v. NLRB, 981 F.2d 861 [6th Cir. 1992]; Southwest Forest Industry v. NLRB, 841 F.2d 270 [9th Cir. 1988]). Agreements are usually field-specific. They include the conditions of employment of office workers working for example in the field of financing, information technology services, construction, metallurgy or data reporting.
Procedures for the enforcement of workers` rights are also laid down in collective agreements. It is the union`s responsibility to uphold workers` rights by filing a complaint and, if necessary, pursuing the issue before arbitration. As a general rule, workers must be represented by a trade union to exercise their rights when a complaint is rejected by their immediate superior. The exact process for filing a complaint and even arbitrating varies across collective agreements. For more information on redress and arbitration procedures, see The Grievance and Arbitration Process. For more information on collective agreements, visit the website of the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development. For federal affairs, we refer to the Government of Canada`s website on collective agreements for the public sector. Workers are not required to join a union on a given job. However, most sectors of activity with an average trade union organization of 70% are subject to a collective agreement.