Are longer-term agreements the new normal?

Expense of bargaining, changing economy, precarious work cited as factors
By John Dujay
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 08/30/2017

Over the last few years, the length of collective agreements being negotiated has often extended beyond the typical two years to three, four or five — for a variety of reasons. And there are both positives and negatives to this approach, say experts.

“From the company’s perspective, a longer-term agreement creates labour relations certainty: You don’t have to concern yourself with bargaining and possible work disruption for a longer period of time, which makes it a lot easier to operate,” says Will Cascadden, a partner at McCarthy Tétrault in Calgary.

In a lot of these negotiations, both sides are usually left discussing “incremental improvements” because the fight over what they have negotiated in the past, especially with pensions changing from defined benefit to defined contribution plans, is over, says Aaron Ekman, secretary treasurer at the BC Federation of Labour in Vancouver.