Labour Relations

Labour Relations
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Labour Relations Act, 1995: The Labour Relations Act, 1995 governs both the process by which a trade union acquires bargaining rights and the procedures by which trade unions and employers engage in collective bargaining; the Act applies primarily to workplaces in the private sector, but also applies to certain parts of the public sector (municipal workers, hospital employees, Ontario Hydro, etc.) with some modifications.

Ontario Labour Relations Board

The Ontario Labour Relations Board is an independent, quasi-judicial tribunal mandated to mediate and adjudicate labour relations-related matters. The Ontario Labour Relations Board accepts applications in a wide variety of matters, relating to a number of different pieces of legislation. The following is a list of the most common applications which do belong at the Board:

Labour Relations Act, 1995

  • applications to certify trade unions (establishing bargaining rights) in a workplace (in construction and non-construction settings)
  • applications to decertify trade unions (also called terminating bargaining rights) in a workplace (in construction and non-construction settings)
  • applications for a direction that a first collective agreement be settled by arbitration where the workplace parties have been unable to sign their first agreement
  • applications for a declaration concerning the status of a successor trade union
  • applications concerning the status of an employer (in the context of a sale of a business or one employer’s relatedness to one or more other employers)
  • applications concerning a trade union’s duty of fair representation of its members
  • applications concerning a trade union’s duty of fair referral of its members
  • applications concerning unfair labour practices by any workplace party
  • applications for a religious exemption from having to pay dues to a trade union
  • applications concerning work assignment (also known as jurisdictional disputes)
  • applications concerning illegal strikes or lockouts
  • applications concerning early termination of collective agreements
  • referrals of grievances to arbitration in the construction industry
  • applications for accreditation in the construction industry
  • requests for reconsideration of Board decisions

Occupational Health and Safety Act

  • applications concerning unlawful reprisals for exercising rights under the Act
  • appeals of Ministry of Labour Inspector’s orders (an applicant must have first contacted the Ministry of Labour to receive the Inspector’s order or decision)
  • requests for suspension of Ministry of Labour Inspector’s orders (an applicant must have first contacted the Ministry of Labour to receive the Inspector’s order or decision)

Employment Standards Act

  • applications for review of Employment Standards Officer’s order to pay or refusal to issue an order to pay (an applicant must first have contacted the Ministry of Labour to receive the Officer’s determination)

Statutes of Limited Jurisdiction

  • Colleges Collective Bargaining Act (duty of fair representation; employee status)
  • Smoke-Free Ontario Act (unlawful reprisals)
  • Environmental Protection Act (unlawful reprisals)
  • Environmental Bill of Rights Act (unlawful reprisals)
  • Public Service Labour Relations Transition Act (determination of bargaining rights)
  • Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act (determination of essential services)

Applying to the Ontario Labour Relations Board

Applicants should read the entire package provided by the Ontario Labour Relations Board before completing the appropriate forms. The packages and the Rules direct parties to complete the forms as fully as possible, explain how and when to deliver materials to the other parties, and describe in what manner and method applications are to be filed with the Board. The packages tell parties what materials the Board needs at the outset of an application, and what may be delivered and filed at a later date. Application packages, including forms, the Ontario Labour Relations Board’s Rules of Procedure, easy-to-understand tables for each type of application, and Information Bulletins are available from the Board’s offices at 505 University Avenue, 2nd Floor, Toronto, Ontario, M5G 2P1, by telephone (416-326-7500) or on this web site.

Responding to an Application

If someone has filed an application with the Ontario Labour Relations Board, most often they will have been required to deliver the application materials to all identified responding or affected parties.


One of the functions of the Ontario Labour Relations Board is to attempt to resolve applications without the necessity of a full oral hearing. Mediation helps the workplace parties reach a settlement of the application. During mediation, a mediator may refer to existing case law as it relates to the issues in dispute in order to assist the parties in realistically evaluating their positions and assessing any settlement offers. The mediator is a neutral party and does not give legal advice. If a settlement could not be reached, the matter is usually scheduled for hearing.


If no settlement is reached by the parties or through the efforts of a Labour Relations Officer, an application will proceed to adjudication. This can take a number of different formats, depending on the type of application, the legislation involved, and the Board’s Rules of Procedure. Each of the formats described below is a legal proceeding before the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

Pre-Hearing Conference

A pre-hearing conference will be conducted before a Vice-Chair of the Board by telephone conference or in person at the Board’s offices. A pre-hearing conference is more like a meeting of the parties or their representatives than a consultation or hearing, and is held to narrow issues or otherwise case-manage a particular application. Pre-hearing conferences are usually short in duration and deal with preliminary or procedural matters. The Vice-Chair may make rulings directing the parties to do certain things to facilitate subsequent proceedings. These rulings or other agreements reached by the parties may be reflected in a decision or pre-hearing conference memo issued by the Vice-Chair. A pre-hearing conference will not normally end with a final decision on an application.


A consultation is less formal and meant to be less costly to the parties than a hearing. The Vice-Chair or panel plays a much more active role in a consultation. The goal of the consultation is to allow the Vice-Chair or panel to expeditiously focus on the issues in dispute and determine whether any statutory rights have been violated.


A hearing before the Ontario Labour Relations Board is a legal proceeding. Parties to a hearing might choose to represent themselves, or to be represented by a lawyer or paralegal. The hearing will determine the rights and obligations of the parties, and may result in a variety of consequences, including deciding who wins and who loses, the issuing of Board declarations and orders, or the awarding of money. Parties are advised of the time and place of the hearing in a Notice of Hearing which is sent to them from the Board well in advance of the date of the proceeding.

At the hearing, all parties are expected to attend and to be prepared to present the Board with all the evidence and information which they believe will assist the Board in understanding their position. As the Notice of Hearing makes clear, if a party who is given notice does not attend at the hearing, the hearing may, and most times will, go ahead without them. If the applicant in a proceeding does not attend the hearing, the Board will normally dismiss the application as having been abandoned. Parties cannot provide additional information to the Board afterwards, unless expressly requested to do so by the Board. The Board issues written decisions, which may include the name and personal information about persons appearing before it. Decisions are available to the public from a variety of sources including the Ontario Workplace Tribunals Library, and over the internet at, a free legal information data base.

The Labour Relations-related matters are very complicated and diverse. The Ontario Labour Relations Board receives many different kinds of applications, under a variety of Ontario laws. However, some applications belong to other tribunals; others should be heard by the civil courts, or by private arbitration. If you have a complaint about discrimination in your workplace, you should contact the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. If you have a complaint about your pay, hours of work, overtime, vacation or holiday entitlements, termination or severance pay, and you are not represented by a trade union, you should contact the Ministry of Labour. If you are not sure or unable to find which jurisdiction your problem or concern falls under, contact a lawyer or paralegal as soon as you can.

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