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Conciliation and Mediation Services

Employers and unions often have to deal with significant changes which can often lead to conflict in the workplace. The result can be an adversarial relationship, mistrust and a lack of communication. When conflict arises, considering the different patterns of communication and problem solving techniques helps to resolve the conflict.

The Labour Relations and Mediation Division can provide assistance to employers, employees and bargaining agents with respect to grievances, collective bargaining and workplace conflict in their organizations. They also can help by providing conciliation services to parties involved in collective bargaining and facilitating Interest Based Negotiation (IBN).

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1. Conciliation

Conciliation helps parties resolve collective bargaining disputes by diffusing tensions, improving communications, interpreting issues, providing technical assistance, exploring potential solutions and bringing about a negotiated settlement. The conciliator is a neutral third party who has extensive experience in all facets of labour relations and collective bargaining.

There are two ways to access conciliation:

  • The parties may voluntarily request the assistance of a conciliator from the Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety or the Director of Labour Relations and Mediation to provide bargaining assistance at any time during the negotiation. The conciliator is appointed by the Director of Labour Relations and Mediation. (section 6-27 of The Saskatchewan Employment Act).
  • A conciliator will be appointed if an impasse is reached during negotiations. Either party shall notify the Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety of the impasse, and the minister will appoint a labour relations officer, a special mediator or a conciliation board to mediate or conciliate the dispute. (section 6-33 of The Saskatchewan Employment Act).
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2. Grievance Mediation

After exhausting any grievance procedure established by the collective agreement, the parties can agree to request the Director of Labour Relations and Mediation to appoint a labour relations officer to assist the parties in resolving a dispute arising from an unresolved grievance.

Grievance mediation is a less formal process than arbitration. The outcome is decided by the two parties directly affected by the dispute, unlike arbitration, where a decision is handed down by a third party.

Grievance mediation is a mutually agreed to process by which the parties to a collective agreement, with the assistance of a mediator, work toward the resolution of a grievance arising from the interpretation, application, administration or alleged contravention of a collective agreement.

Instead of the formality of an arbitration hearing, a mediator meets with representatives of both parties in an informal setting, in joint and/or separate sessions. The mediator provides a neutral viewpoint on the relative merits of the parties' positions on the grievance and may provide suggestions for its resolution. The mediator is a third party who works constructively with the parties, in a flexible and creative manner, to assist the parties in resolving their dispute(s).

How it works:

  • The program is voluntary. Both parties must agree to participate.
  • The mediation is informal in nature and the mediator will not produce any formal report. If an agreement is reached, the terms of settlement will be recorded.
  • Arbitration remains an option if the grievance is unresolved after grievance mediation.
  • All grievance mediation proceedings are without prejudice and precedence and are confidential between the parties, unless the parties agree otherwise.

Why it works:

There are several reasons why employers and unions may want to consider grievance mediation:

  • Attitudes – Grievance mediation is designed to alleviate the build-up of negative attitudes which can develop when conflict goes unresolved.
  • Control – Grievance mediation allows the parties to shape a settlement. If the grievance goes to arbitration, a settlement will be imposed.
  • Cost – Arbitration can be an expensive process. A grievance mediator is assigned without cost for their services.
  • Time – Grievance mediation is designed for resolving disputes as quickly as possible. Time delays can lead to serious morale and personnel problems.

If the dispute is not settled through grievance mediation, one or both of the parties may decide to proceed to arbitration. The Director of the Labour Relations and Mediation Division acts on behalf of the Minister when the parties request an arbitrator. Unless specified in the collective agreement, the Director provides a list of approved arbitrators for consideration by the parties. Labour relations officers are not involved in the arbitration process but may act as a mediator if the parties agree to use grievance mediation.

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3. Best Practice Negotiation / Interest Based Negotiation Facilitation and Training

Best Practice Negotiation, or Interest Based Negotiation (IBN), uses a facilitator to guide the parties through a collaborative or interest-based approach to achieve a collective bargaining agreement. The process creates an environment of open and clear communication that helps employers, employees and unions maintain good working relationships or improve difficult relationships over the long term.

Best Practice Negotiation/Interest Based negotiation techniques enable the parties to use consensus to fashion a settlement that best satisfies the parties' interests on all issues.

Typically parties participate in a one-day workshop then proceed with a facilitator/mediator through the bargaining process.

The workshop focuses on the following topics:

  • The theory of conflict
  • Positional negotiating versus interest based negotiating
  • Communication skills
  • Negotiation pitfalls
  • Blockers to moving from positional negotiating to interest based negotiating
  • Joint problem solving model

Entry point

Requests for this service can be made by email to kristin.anderson@gov.sk.ca.

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4. Workplace Assessment, Diagnostic and Interventions

Mediators can meet with parties confidentially and assess various concerns, issues and conflicts. The mediator will analyze the information and tailor interventions that meet the needs of specific organizations and bring about sustainable results.

Entry point

Services can be accessed by submitting an application form to the Labour Relations and Mediation Division's Saskatoon office by email to kristin.anderson@gov.sk.ca.

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5. Workplace Mediations

Workplace Mediation assists workplaces with complex issues related to conflict. A neutral mediator works with unions and employers, providing them with strategic creative interventions that meets their specific needs and targets specific conflicts. The interventions may include mediation(s), skill building and/or other types of tailored conflict interventions.

The mediator assists parties involved in workplace conflict to resolve their issues collaboratively. The outcome of collaborative problem solving processes can improve relationships at all levels - between union and management, between colleagues or throughout an entire work unit.

The mediator guides participants through a strategic process of identifying, discussing and resolving issues by finding solutions that are implementable and sustainable by the individuals in the workplace. The mediator builds capacity with participants in the conflict intervention so that both problem-solving and communication skills will be improved in the future allowing parties to resolve their own conflict constructively minimizing the need for an outside intervention in the future.

Entry Point:

Services can be accessed by submitting an application form to the Labour Relations and Mediation Division's Saskatoon office by email to kristin.anderson@gov.sk.ca.

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6. Charter Building

A mediator/facilitator works with organizations to 'press the reset button' on behaviours usually surrounding communication and problem solving that have caused issues for an organizations. A mediator works with organizations, teams or units to build a document that articulates how people will work more successfully together. The participants agree collaboratively and by consensus to items in the document and how the charter will be implemented.

Entry Point:

Services can be accessed by submitting an application form to the Labour Relations and Mediation Division's Saskatoon office by email to kristin.anderson@gov.sk.ca.

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7. Conflict Resolution and Communication Training

The Labour Relations and Mediation Division offers tailored-made Communication and Conflict Resolution workshops to help employers and unions explore different and more positive ways to approach conflict by:

  • Enhancing relationships;
  • Encouraging effective communications;
  • Emphasizing common ground; and
  • Looking at escalation in conflict.

The workshop focuses on the application of conflict resolution principles in the workplace. We use a hands-on learning approach by having participants work through exercises and workplace simulations to learn about the nature of conflict and conflict in organizations. The workshop also looks at traditional and new approaches to conflict and teaches effective communication skills. Finally, the workshop will teach participants about using a collaborative model for resolving conflict, constructing an agenda, exploring interests, and evaluating the options before reaching an agreement. The mediator works with parties to a build a course that specifically meets the needs of the participants, course material and theory which will change depending of what those needs are.

The workshop provides two full days of training. Modifications to the length of the workshop can be made in some circumstances.

Who should attend?

Those who are involved in a relationship are best equipped to identify and implement appropriate improvements. Anyone at any level of the organization who may be directly or indirectly impacted by conflict in the workplace should be included in the workplace. We recommend at least 15 and at most 35 participants in the workshop, but we are able to work with organizations to find a workshop size that meets your needs.

There is no fee to have a facilitator provide the workshop. Parties are required to cover the cost of the training facility and costs resulting from participants being absent from work.

Entry Point:

Requests for this service can be made by email to kristin.anderson@gov.sk.ca.

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