We get a little background about some of the other MGEU agreements, and Gordon explains that while some of them were ratified, with a conditional (i.e. protest) ballot, that didn’t happen with the GEMA, because, unlike the others, GEMA has a provision that if they can’t reach an agreement, the matter goes to binding arbitration.
As with other unions, the MGEU sets their bargaining priorities by the democratic process of meeting with members, conducting surveys, and holding discussion forums to discuss all the issues. (By this point, it occurred to me – what if our politicians determined our government priorities this way? How different would that be from what they do now – coming up with platforms based on things that they decide we need, and then selling them to us in ways that, for the most part, wouldn’t meet the Canadian Advertising Standards.)
Anyway, prior to the advent of the Public Services Sustainability Act, collective bargaining over GEMA had been relatively uneventful, and generally workable. Typically, the parties meet as much as 30 or more times in any given round, as they collaborate to put together what is inevitably a complex agreement.
According to Gordon, like most negotiations of this type, both parties tend to start with non-monetary issues, as these are less charged, and working on them allows the negotiators to build trust as well as momentum. The problem with monetary issues is that once they arise, almost everything else tends to get ignored. As a result, in the normal course, both the union and the government usually don’t put specific proposals on wages until late in the process.
GEMA negotiations have been generally successful in reaching agreement. From 2006-2015, the parties started binding arbitration only three times, and even then, agreement was reached before any arbitration occurred. But that was all before the Public Services Sustainability Act, and the GEMA renewal that was due in 2019.