The Public Service Labour Relations Board (PSLRB) is responsible for the administration of the collective bargaining process within the federal public service covered by the Public Service Labour Relations Act (PSLRA) and the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act (PESRA). The PSLRA introduces new approaches to the process of collective bargaining.
Approximately 200,000 employees in 100 bargaining units are covered by the collective bargaining and other provisions of the PSLRA. The PSLRA provides a choice between two methods of resolving collective bargaining disputes: binding arbitration and the referral of a dispute to conciliation. The latter method gives employees the right to strike under certain prescribed conditions and is therefore often referred to as the "conciliation/strike route". The bargaining agent chooses the method of dispute resolution for each bargaining unit and can change it prior to each round of bargaining. The PESRA provides for binding arbitration as the only method available for the resolution of collective bargaining disputes for parliamentary employees; there is therefore no right to strike.
Regardless of which method of dispute resolution has been selected by the bargaining agent, the parties may reach a point in their face-to-face negotiations where it is increasingly difficult to make progress. At this stage, either party may choose to request the services of a mediator. The Chairperson of the PSLRB may at any time, if requested to do so or on his or her own, appoint a mediator to confer with the parties to a dispute and to endeavour to assist them in settling the dispute.
Should the involvement of a mediator not bring about a settlement and where the method of resolution is "conciliation/strike", a Public Interest Commission (PIC) may be appointed by the Minister on the recommendation of the Chairperson of the PSLRB. A PIC may be composed of a single person or a panel of three persons. It should be noted that members of a PIC are selected from a list of persons jointly agreed to by the parties. The PIC will report its recommendations for settlement within 30 days of its appointment to the Chairperson of the PSLRB, who will then make the report public.
In the event that the recommendations from the PIC do not bring about a settlement, the PSLRA requires that a secret ballot strike vote be held before a strike may be called. All employees in the bargaining unit will have the right to vote and must be given reasonable opportunity to participate in the vote. The bargaining agent may authorize or declare a strike only within the period of 60 days following the vote, provided that it has received the majority support of voters.
Arbitration boards, where that is the selected method of dispute resolution, are established in the same manner as PICs, except that they are established by the Chairperson of the PSLRB. Either party may request the establishment of an arbitration board. At the outset of the process, the Chairperson of the PSLRB must give the arbitration board a notice referring the matters in dispute to it for arbitration. In most cases, the parties will have reached agreement on a substantial number of provisions before arbitration is requested. In conducting proceedings and rendering its award, an arbitration board is required to consider a number of factors, including conditions of employment in similar occupations outside the public service, the need to maintain appropriate relationships between classification levels within the public service and the need to take into account the state of the Canadian economy and of the government’s fiscal circumstances. An arbitral award is binding on the parties and usually forms a supplement to the collective agreement.
In addition, the PSLRB, under an agreement with the Yukon government, administers the collective bargaining systems under Yukon's Education Labour Relations Act and Public Service Labour Relations Act. When performing these functions funded by the Yukon government, the PSLRB acts respectively as the Yukon Teachers Labour Relations Board and the Yukon Public Service Labour Relations Board.