What is conciliation?

Conciliation is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process whereby the parties to a dispute use a conciliator, who meets with the parties separately in an attempt to resolve their differences. They do this by lowering tensions, improving communications, interpreting issues, providing technical assistance, exploring potential solutions and bringing about a negotiated settlement.

Either party may apply to the ministry. If parties are in negotiations, they must use the government’s conciliation services before they can get into a position to engage in a strike or lock-out.

Conciliation differs from arbitration in that the conciliation process, in and of itself, has no legal standing, and the conciliator usually has no authority to seek evidence or call witnesses, usually writes no decision, and makes no award.

Conciliation differs from mediation in that the main goal is to conciliate, most of the time by seeking concessions. In mediation, the mediator tries to guide the discussion in a way that optimizes parties needs, takes feelings into account and reframes representations.

In conciliation the parties seldom, if ever, actually face each other across the table in the presence of the conciliator.

What if the employer and the union cannot reach agreement in conciliation?

The conciliation officer informs the Ontario Minister of Labour that a collective agreement was unable to be effected. The minister would then generally issue a notice informing the union and the employer that he or she “does not consider it advisable to appoint a conciliation board” (section 21(b) of the act). This notice is known colloquially as the “no board”.

A no-board report indicates a failure to resolve differences between the two parties. After a no-board report is issued, the parties must observe a sixteen-day period during which terms of employment are frozen but bargaining may continue. On the seventeenth day, lockout or strike is legally possible. A no-board report does not mean lockout or strike will occur; the decision to lockout or strike can be kept in abeyance until any point in time.

In Solidarity,
COPE491 Bargaining Committee