One of the many problems facing the American labor movement is the fact that only one-half of its newly certified bargaining units are ever able to obtain first collective bargaining agreements. The value of third-party assistance in countering this trend has been recognized in the Employee Free Choice Act (“EFCA”), which proposes bringing in mediators and arbitrators to resolve first-contract disputes.
This paper is a study of the unique mediation-focused first-contract model available in British Columbia (B.C.), Canada. The B.C. first contract model has two key goals: (1) to facilitate the achievement of first collective bargaining agreements through voluntarily collective bargaining/mediation; and (2) to repair and foster the collective bargaining relationships. Therefore, the centerpiece of the model is non-binding mediation wherein the issued recommendations regarding the terms of the first collective bargaining agreement can be rejected by either party, but are then accorded considerable deference in any subsequent arbitration or litigation.
Through analysis of data made available by the B.C. Labor Relations Board (“BCLRB”) and the parties, and interviews with key participants in the B.C. labor-management community, this study empirically tests whether the B.C. first contract model has achieved its stated goals. The results reveal that the B.C. model is, indeed, effective in obtaining first collective bargaining agreements while avoiding binding arbitration, and in fostering enduring bargaining relationships. Only 12% of all parties who accessed the B.C. model resolved their bargaining agreements through binding arbitration. Parties who accepted the mediators’ non-binding recommendations were most likely to obtain first collective bargaining agreements (at 97.4%) and be in current bargaining relationships (at 82.1%). Moreover, the interview data reveal that the B.C. model has obtained considerable approval from all key participants.
Given its success in achieving these goals, the B.C. first contract model merits serious consideration as a viable model for the United States.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/melanie_vipond/1/