Changing collective agreements on the fly

‘Reopener’ clauses in collective agreements are on the rise
By Lorna Harris
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/17/2006

Struggling with financial difficulties and facing a likelihood it would have to close its doors, Gestion Jacques Champagne, a Montreal grocery store that is a licensee of Provigo, approached its unionized employees to ask for their co-operation. The store needed to open the collective agreement and reduce wages by 10 per cent.

The union refused and, soon after, the employees’ worst fears were realized. The store closed, putting 26 employees out of work. In hindsight, the union may have erred in rejecting the employer’s attempt to open the collective agreement. But its reluctance is not surprising.

Changing the terms of a collective agreement mid-term is not something either unions or managers do readily. This is chiefly due to the instability it could introduce into the workplace and labour relations.