BARGAINING 101: How we negotiate fair contracts

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In a unionized workplace, all of your workplace conditions such as your wages, benefits, scheduling and retirement security are protected by a legal contract, also known as a collective agreement, negotiated by your union on your behalf. Negotiating a fair contract is a key way that your union gains important advancements for members.

Bargaining a contract is a democratic process. Members will decide who represents them at the bargaining table and what proposals will be brought forward. A union vote will also be held once an agreement is reached at the bargaining table. No changes will take effect until a majority of the membership vote in favour of the contract.

Negotiating a contract can be an exciting but also lengthy process. Whether you’re new to UFCW 1518 or are interested in learning more about how negotiations work, we’ve put together this guide to help all members navigate through this important process.

NOTE: This is a general outline of the bargaining process. Negotiations may look slightly different depending on your specific unit’s needs and circumstances. Check out this helpful infographic to visualize the process.

Bargaining Committee Elections

After a bargaining notice has been served to your employer, either because your previous contract is expiring or you are negotiating your first union contract, the first step is to put together a bargaining committee.

On your union’s side, contract negotiations are led by a bargaining committee comprised of union negotiators and rank-and-file members. Bargaining committee members are elected democratically by the membership. Members will be asked to submit bargaining committee nominations. If enough nominations are received a bargaining committee election will be conducted. Elected bargaining committee representatives will be paid for their time spent in bargaining as if they were reporting to their regular jobs.

Bargaining committee members play a key role in negotiating a contract for your workplace. They will be at the bargaining table with your employer, advocating on your behalf to ensure a contract that reflects the improvements you want to see at work is negotiated. They will also help keep everyone informed throughout the process of negotiations.

Request for Proposals

Once a bargaining committee has been elected, it’s time to collect proposals to bring forward at the bargaining table.

This is a good time to connect with your union representative and bargaining committee members to let them know what your priorities are. Your union will send you a bargaining survey with relevant questions specific to your workplace so we can collect meaningful data from the membership.

Proposals Meeting

After we have sorted through your bargaining proposals, a proposals meeting will be scheduled to present you with an overview of what we will be bringing forward to the bargaining table. This will also be an opportunity for you to ask any questions you may have about the bargaining process and what the next steps are.


Then it’s time for negotiations! The duration of bargaining depends on many factors, including the size of your unit, the cooperation of the employer, the union-employer relationship, etc. Negotiations can take from a few days to many months.

Once at the bargaining table there is a certain degree of confidentiality that your bargaining committee and the employer need to maintain as some sensitive items may be discussed (e.g. employee retention, employer financials, etc.). But rest assured that your union and bargaining committee representatives are doing their best to advocate on your behalf.

As soon as there is news to share, we will provide you with updates, including when progress in certain priority areas is made, if items are agreed to or if we reach an impasse. You can also always get in touch with your union representative to ask questions about how bargaining is going.

Contract Ratification Vote

Once a contract has been negotiated and mutually agreed to between your bargaining committee and the employer (in some exceptional cases a contract may be achieved through mediation or arbitration), it will be presented to you for a vote! A date and location for a contract ratification vote will be set, when you will be able to cast your vote. Your bargaining committee will be in attendance so they can answer any questions you may have so you can make an informed decision!

A new contract!

If a majority votes to accept the new agreement, that marks the end of the bargaining cycle! It also means improved working conditions coming your way. If a contract is rejected by the membership, your bargaining committee will return to the bargaining table.

Once a new contract has been voted in negotiations may conclude but the work of your union continues. We’re here to enforce your contract by defending your rights and ensuring the employer meets their obligations.