Simon Ouellette | CUPE Communications

October 2017 saw the New Brunswick (NB) government introduce Bill 4, which amends the Industrial Relations Act to include first contract arbitration. This was a big win for the NB Federation of Labour, who had been lobbying the government on this issue for decades.

First contract arbitration (FCA) applies to unions who, after a successful certification, experience difficulties in obtaining their first collective agreement. If passed, the new law will enable these locals to get a contract through arbitration where the Labour Board is shown evidence of dysfunctional bargaining.

“First contracts are among the hardest deals to negotiate. The law will help with new and vulnerable locals who start off in a tough bargaining position with their employer,” said Daniel Légère, president of CUPE NB.

Having a prolonged strike while bargaining your first contract is no easy task especially in sectors where there is a lot of precarious work.

“The legislation is not perfect. It is still restrictive, and it should look more like Manitoba’s or Quebec’s automatic access model. However, it is a significant step forward for NB as we had no law at all on first contract arbitrations. It will help private sector organizing efforts and it will help many of our newer locals in current fights for their first contract,” said Légère.

If NB’s Bill 4 receives royal assent in early 2018, then the last province in Canada without any type of first contract legislation will be Prince Edward Island.