Enforcement of Agreements
Enforcement: A Shared Responsibility
With every round of bargaining, members are called upon to demonstrate their collective strength and solidarity so that locals can attain strong, effective collective agreements. Yet even the best agreement is useless unless its provisions are enforced. Enforcement begins with each and every ETFO member.
Know Your Collective Agreement
The best thing a member can do to ensure that her or his negotiated rights are being upheld is to read, and ponder the implications of, the collective agreement. In practical terms, this is where the answers to many employment-related questions can typically be found, such as: What is the schedule for pay cheques? How much life insurance coverage do I have? What is the process for requesting a leave? How much preparation time do I receive?
How is it Being Implemented?
When a member’s negotiated rights are not being upheld, the local can take various steps to correct the situation. Many workplace problems are sorted out simply through a phone call. Others may require a more formal mechanism, such as the grievance procedure. Members, and especially stewards, should actively monitor the way in which the collective agreement is being interpreted and applied in the workplace. Whenever there is any doubt about the way a provision of the agreement is being implemented, the local should be informed immediately. For one thing, the sooner the problem is resolved, the better, and for another, if the grievance process is to be applied, there are time lines to observe.
Monitoring and Data Collection: Information is Power
But enforcing members’ rights involves more than just acting promptly when a problem occurs. Stewards in particular should be attuned to the overall labour relations climate in the workplace. What aspects of members’ working lives are going smoothly? Where are the problems? What mechanisms might be put in place to eliminate these difficulties?
Answering these kinds of questions, and gathering other workplace data, are key to ensuring that collective agreements are continually enforced, and continually improved. Periodically, the local or provincial ETFO office will ask stewards or other members to complete surveys on various aspects of their working lives. While “survey fatigue” does sometimes happen, it is important to stay focused on the purpose for which such information is gathered. Having solid information about working conditions, health and safety issues, human rights issues, etc. puts the union in a much better position at the next round of bargaining. In negotiating and enforcing a collective agreement, information really is power.