The drafting of a collective agreement comprises several stages in addition to the actual negotiations. It is a long process which may last from several months to a few years. Up to two years may go by between the certification of your local union and the signing of your first agreement.



The local union consults the members of the bargaining unit concerned by the future agreement regarding their demands. Various means may be used, such as meetings at the workplace, special assemblies, surveys, etc.

List of union demands

The bargaining committee draws up a list of union demands on the basis of those registered during consultations. This list is sometimes called a “bargaining agenda.”

Negotiating mandate

At a general assembly meeting, the members of the bargaining unit give their union a mandate to negotiate the collective agreement on their behalf. This mandate is based on the list of union demands.


Initial contact

During their first meeting, the bargaining committee submits the list of union demands to the university’s representatives, and receives in return the employer’s offer.


Labour and management subsequently meet several times to discuss their respective proposals and attempt to find common ground.

Tentative agreement

When the parties arrive at a mutual understanding, they sign a tentative agreement on the collective agreement.


Year after year, the vast majority of collective agreements are settled through direct bargaining, that is without recourse to a strike or lock-out, or the use of conciliation or arbitration.

The latest statistics of the Ministère du Travail on the subject indicate that in 2012, 83.7 percent of collective agreements were settled through direct bargaining (source here, p. 17, under La négociation directe, in French only).


Vote by the members

The tentative agreement is submitted to a vote by the members of the bargaining unit in a general assembly. Note that the ballot is secret. If the majority of members exercising their right to vote come out in favour of it, the agreement is adopted. Occasionally, an agreement may be rejected. In this case, labour either returns to the bargaining table or initiates pressure tactics.

Signature and coming into effect of the agreement

Once the tentative agreement is adopted by the members, the collective agreement is signed by labour and management, and subsequently transmitted to the Ministère du Travail. It comes into effect on the date of deposit with the Minister.


Conciliation and arbitration

Labour and management may call on persons who are external to the negotiating process to help them resolve an impasse. The Ministère du Travail offers two services to this end: conciliation and arbitration.

  • Conciliation
    The conciliator attempts to bring the parties closer so as to favour an agreement. In case of failure, the conciliator does not have the power to impose a settlement.
  • Arbitration
    The arbitrator determines employment conditions in a settlement in lieu of an “agreement,” even if it is not to the satisfaction of either party. Arbitration is rarely used because of its constraining and binding character.

Strike and lock-out

Another possible strategy for resolving an impasse is to cause work stoppage through a strike or a lock-out, in an attempt to exert pressure on the other party to make it change its negotiating position.

  • Strike
    A strike is called by the workers after a secret ballot in which the majority of votes cast are in favour of this measure. The mandate may be given to call an unlimited general strike, or a different kind of strike: a one-day strike, a rotating strike, etc.
  • Lock-out
    A lock-out, declared by the employer, is usually general and unlimited.

Return to the negotiating table

Even after recourse to conciliation or exercising their right to a strike or lock-out, labour and management eventually return to the bargaining table to arrive at an agreement. Arbitration is the only settlement mechanism that does not necessarily involve a return to the table.