What Does the Legislation Say?
Section 15 of the Employment Equity Act states:
(1) Every employer shall consult with its employees’ representatives [bargaining agents] by inviting the representatives to provide their views concerning
(a) the assistance that the representatives could provide to the employer to facilitate the implementation of employment equity in its workplace and the communication to its employees of matters relating to employment equity; and
(b) the preparation, implementation and revision of the employer’s employment equity plan. ...
(3) Every employer and its employees’ representatives [bargaining agents] shall collaborate in the preparation, implementation and revision of the employer’s employment equity plan.
What Does this Mean?
Employers must consult and collaborate with unions regarding employment equity. This must be meaningful consultation.
A document entitled Consultation and Collaboration between Departments/Agencies and Bargaining Agents Under Section 15 of the Employment Equity Act was prepared by a joint committee of both management and union representatives.
It defines consultation as follows: “It is an ongoing process of providing information to bargaining agents and seeking from them opinions, advice and information in order to better implement employment equity activities in an organization.”
Collaboration, for departments/agencies, means “making reasonable efforts to enlist the support and assistance of bargaining agents at all stages of employment equity implementation. For unions, collaboration means making reasonable efforts to support and assist in initiatives taken to achieve employment equity in the workplace."
There should be involvement by union representatives at each stage of the employment equity process, including:
- the communication to employees of the commitment to implement employment equity in the workplace;
- the workforce survey;
- the employment systems review,
- the preparation of the employment equity plan;
- the implementation of the employment equity plan;
- the monitoring of progress in implementing the employment equity plan; and
- the review and revision of the employment equity plan.
The best mechanism for consultation is through a joint union-management employment equity committee. Union representatives should insist that the employer has such a specialized committee, at the national level, and in a large department/agency or workplace, there could be regional or even
local sub-committees. If there is no employment equity committee in place, management must consult at other forums, such as joint union-management or labour-management consultation committees. If you are not aware of what mechanisms are in place for joint consultation, ask your union or the HR department at your organization to provide you with this information.
In order for consultation to be effective, the employer must share information with union representatives. This information should include items such as:
- employer policies and practices regarding recruitment, retention, promotion, transfers, and terms and conditions of employment;
- the employment equity plan itself
- results of the workforce survey, workforce analysis, and employment systems review.
The union should choose who its representatives are on any committees involved in consultation. These representatives should be members of designated groups and should have some experience or training on employment equity and/or human rights, where this is possible.