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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). 


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.


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.
  • Issues in labour relations can be both unique and complex. Our mediators have extensive experience in dispute resolution in labour relations.
  • All grievance mediation proceedings are without prejudice and precedence and are confidential between the parties, unless otherwise agreed.
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.


3. Interest Based Negotiation Training

Training in Interest Based Negotiation (IBN)

Interest Based Negotiation (IBN) uses a facilitator to guide the parties through an 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.

Interest Based Negotiations is a process that focuses on what the needs of all participants are, rather than on individual positions. It is a collaborative approach to problem solving, and an opportunity for people to sit down together and solve problems or reach resolution jointly.

What does the workshop cover?

The goal of IBN is to resolve the substantive issues and rebuild relationships. The workshop focuses on the following topics:

  • The theory of conflict
  • Positional negotiating versus interest based negotiating
  • Giving your picture and getting their picture
  • Blockers to moving from positional negotiating to interest based negotiating
  • Joint problem solving model

Who should attend?

The workshop is currently provided without cost, but the parties are required to cover the cost of the training facility and costs resulting from participants being absent from work.


4. Resolving Workplace Conflict and Joint Problem Solving Training

The Labour Relations and Mediation Division offers a Resolving Workplace Conflict and Joint Problem Solving workshop to help employers and unions explore different and more positive ways to approach conflict by:

  • Enhancing relationships
  • Encouraging effective communications
  • Emphasizing common ground

What does the workshop cover?

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 finally evaluating the options before reaching an agreement.

Who should attend?

The workshop requires the participation of both employer and union representatives.

Those who are involved in the relationship are best equipped to identify and implement appropriate improvements.

The workshop is designed for two full days of training. The course is tailored to work environments based on their specific needs. Modifications to the length may be made in some situations, if required. Workshop groups can accommodate up to 40 participants in each session.

The workshop is currently provided without cost, but the parties are required to cover the cost of the training facility and costs resulting from participants being absent from work.


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 unions and employers 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 an entire work unit.

The mediator guides participants through a strategic process of identifying, discussing and resolving issues 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 making a joint request and submitting an impact assessment form to the Labour Relations and Mediation Division's Saskatoon office either by email or fax.

Included in this Service:

  • Information and education on the workplace mediation process utilized.
  • Complex cases – copies of workplace mediation plan developed.
  • All assessments, discussions and mediation sessions with the officers are on a confidential and without prejudice basis.
  • Copy of all relevant office forms (i.e., Agreement to mediate, pre-safety agreement).
  • A copy of the Workplace Mediation Agreement to all mediation participants.
  • Referring clients to other agencies/organizations to help resolve other non-labour relations and mediation issues.

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