There are three statutory freeze periods which apply at different times of the collective bargaining relationship. These periods serve to suspend the terms and conditions of employment while a collective agreement is being negotiated.
The first statutory freeze period arises when an application for certification is pending – see section 32 of the Code. During this period, an employer may not increase or decrease rates of pay or alter a term or condition of employment of the employees affected by the application, without the board’s written permission.
The second statutory freeze occurs after a union has been certified – see section 45(1) of the Code. For at least 12 months or until a collective agreement is reached (whichever is sooner), an employer is prohibited from changing wages or terms or conditions of employment, without written permission from the Labour Relations Board. If the certification involves negotiation of a first collective agreement and a party applies for mediation under section 55 of the Code, the statutory freeze period would not cease until the mediation process concludes, or the parties conclude a collective agreement or commence a strike or lockout.
The third statutory freeze period occurs following the expiry of a collective agreement and notice to commence bargaining has been served – see section 45(2) of the Code. Once such notice is served, the employer is prohibited from altering the conditions of employment until:
- a strike or lockout begins;
- a new agreement is reached; or,
- the union has been decertified, whichever occurs first.
However, in circumstances where the employer can establish proper cause, the employer maintains the right to suspend, transfer, layoff, discipline or discharge an employee during these freeze periods. Further, the “business as usual” principle applies such that routine or planned changes can usually be implemented during the freeze periods.
Information provided by Ryan Anderson, an employment lawyer with Mathews Dinsdale & Clark LLP. The information provided in this article is necessarily of a general nature and must not be regarded as legal advice. For more information about Mathews Dinsdale & Clark LLP, please visit mathewsdinsdale.com.