What is binding arbitration and is it an option instead of a strike?


Binding arbitration is when the union and Employer agree that a third party — an arbitrator — will decide the terms of the new collective agreement. In sectors where the workers are delivering what the government has determined is an essential service, binding arbitration is mandatory and strikes and lockouts are illegal. In all other sectors, including the university sector, binding arbitration is voluntary and must be agreed to by both sides. Amongst unions, binding arbitration is generally seen as a poorer alternative to using the collective power of membership to get an acceptable settlement. There are some faculty associations in Ontario who routinely use binding arbitration to settle their negotiations (University of Toronto, McMaster, Waterloo, and sometimes Ryerson), but their collective agreements are weaker on salary, benefits, internal grievance processes, and rights under tenure and promotion.

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