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Rights typically found in collective agreements

Under collective agreements, both management and unionized employees have rights.

Specific rights may vary from province/territory to province/territory and collective agreement to collective agreement but there are some rights that usually apply universally throughout collective agreement.

Management rights

Most collective agreements in Canada outline “management rights.” This means the rights the employer has over the employee, which include issues like lay-offs and instructing employees.

A typical management rights clause goes something like this: “The management of the Company and its direction of the working force, including the right to plan, direct and control operations, to maintain the discipline and efficiency of the employees, and to require employees to observe reasonable rules and regulations, to hire, layoff, assign employees working hours, suspend, transfer, promote, demote, discipline and discharge employees for proper cause is vested with the Employer.”

Seniority rights

Seniority rights are rights an employee has gained through the length of time that he or she has been employed, usually on an uninterrupted basis.

The seniority clause will often outline that seniority starts accumulating once a probationary period has been completed.

Depending on seniority, the employee with more is going to be considered for promotions and transfers and may have priority of selection of shifts.

Seniority also looks at whether an employee is full-time, part-time or casual. Often casual employees do not accrue seniority.

Part-time employees who are permanent often accrue seniority based on the time worked.

Grievance procedure

This is one of the fundamental rights in a collective agreement, the right to bring a grievance.

A grievance usually means “any dispute or difference between the parties to this agreement concerning the discipline, dismissal or suspension of an employee bound by the agreement or any dispute or difference between the persons bound by the agreement concerning its interpretation, application, operation, or any alleged violation thereof, including any questions as to whether the matter is arbitrable. All grievances or disputes arising during the life of this agreement shall be settled without stoppage of work and without strike or lockout.”

A grievance is when a violation of the collective agreement occurs, then the union files a grievance with the employer and they try to resolve it through the grievance process.

If the grievance process doesn’t produce a resolution to the issue(s) then the parties move on to arbitration.


Arbitration is another fundamental right that is found in most collective agreements across Canada.

If a dispute wasn’t resolved through the grievance process, then it would go through arbitration or mediation where it would be settled by a labour arbitrator, whose decision would be binding on the parties.

There are many more rights common in many collective agreements, such as employees’ rights to holiday days and vacation but the above rights are some of the most important ones.

If you have a question about your collective agreement, consult your union representative.

Read more:

Collective Bargaining, Agreements and Negotiations: FAQ Ontario

OPSEU Collective Agreement