Prince Edward Island’s Labour Act now includes first contract arbitration. This is a positive development—the legislation will ease the transition from a non-union workplace to a collective bargaining relationship.

A union or employer may apply to the Board for first contract arbitration if they are unable to achieve a collective agreement with the help of a conciliator or mediator. The Board will then determine if first contract arbitration is appropriate. Section 34.3 provides criteria for the Board to consider when making that decision:

34.3 Direction

(1) Where the efforts by the Board to resolve the dispute under section 34.2 are unsuccessful and the Board is satisfied that arbitration is otherwise appropriate, the Board may direct that the dispute be resolved by arbitration in accordance with section 34.5.


Factors to be considered

(2) In making its decision under subsection (1), the Board shall consider whether

(a) any extreme bargaining positions have been taken by one or both parties;

(b) any unfair labour practices have occurred; or

(c) the employer failed to recognize and negotiate with the bargaining agent,

and may take into account any other factors that it considers relevant to the dispute.

Negotiating a first collective agreement is difficult. Employers and employees are often unfamiliar with the process and anxious about the outcome. Employers may be guarded, hesitant to make concessions to the union.

First contract arbitration provides more stability in such an uncertain time. Parties will be encouraged to take reasonable positions and limit delay. Employees on PEI can be more confident that, if they decide to form a union, they will be able to achieve a first collective agreement.