Calgary Firefighters Association

Established 1917 · IAFF Local 255



Common Union Terms


Arbitration: a method of settling a labour-management dispute by having an impartial arbitrator or arbitration board render a decision that is binding on both the trade union and the employer. 

Bargaining Agent: a trade union acting on behalf of employees in collective bargaining or as a party to a collective agreement with an employer or employers' organization. 

Bargaining Rights: the exclusive authority given to a trade union to represent a group of employees of a particular employer, or to a registered employers' organization to represent a group of employers in the construction industry. 

Bargaining Unit: a group of employees appropriate for collective bargaining. 

Certification: official recognition by the Labour Relations Board that a trade union is the exclusive bargaining representative for employees in a particular unit. 

Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA): an agreement in writing between an employer or employers' organization and a bargaining agent, containing terms or conditions of employment that are binding on the employer, the trade union and the employees covered by the agreement. 

Collective Bargaining: a method of determining wages, hours and other conditions of employment through direct negotiations between a trade union and an employer. 

Constitution and By-Laws (CBL): A document that sets out the structure of an organization and its basic rules of operation. 

Duty of Fair Representation: the duty of a trade union to fairly represent employees in the bargaining unit with regard to their rights under the Collective Agreement. 

Executive Board: Members elected as officers of a union. Offices and duties are set out in the local union’s bylaws and constitution. Examples include the President, Executive Vice-President, Secretary-Treasurer, and Vice Presidents. 

Good-Faith Bargaining: bargaining in which the two parties make every reasonable effort to reach a collective agreement. 

Grievance: a disagreement over the interpretation of a provision in a Collective Agreement, or an allegation by one party that the other has violated the terms of the agreement. 

Grievance Procedure: the process contained in a Collective Agreement for the settlement of disagreements over the interpretation of a provision in a Collective Agreement, or an allegation by one party that the other has violated the terms of the agreement. 

Letter of Understanding (LOU): An agreement in writing between the union and the employer. An LOU is often part of the collective agreement. 

Mediation: a method of encouraging and assisting in the settlement of collective bargaining disputes in which the parties to a dispute use a third person, called a mediator, to assist them. 

Mediator: a person appointed by the Director of Mediation Services or, in some cases, agreed upon by the employer and the trade union, to mediate. 

Memorandum of Settlement (MOS): A written, signed agreement that identifies what the union and employer have agreed to in settling a collective agreement or other dispute. The union and/or the employer may have to ratify the agreement before it becomes a collective agreement. 

Notice to Bargain: a notice, served by either the trade union or employer to the other, to initiate collective bargaining. 

Past Practice: A long-established practice of a recurring situation over a substantial period of time which has been recognized by both parties. 

Precedent: A prior decision of an arbitrator, labour board, other tribunal or court. The decision can be used to help decide similar disputes in the future. 

Progressive Discipline: A series of more and more severe disciplinary penalties. Generally, an employer must apply progressive discipline unless the misconduct justifies terminating an employee.  

Ratification: The voting process for or against the new contract. The voting process by bargaining unit members constitutes the ratification of the collective agreement. A new contract can only be signed and become effective following the ratification of both parties. 

Retroactive: A change comes into effect on a date that has passed. For example, if the union negotiates a wage increase during bargaining, you may be owed that increase back to when the collective agreement starts. 

Seniority: A listing of workers in order of length of service. Employers often use seniority to decide who will be promoted. 

Side Bar: Short for side-bargaining. These are “off-the record” informal discussions between representatives of the parties to seek a non-binding position on issues – away from the bargaining table. The process is exploratory and does not change table positions on bargaining issues. The sidebars are usually conducted between chief negotiators/spokespersons. 

Term: The negotiated length of the collective agreement that the agreement will remain enforced. 

Without Prejudice: When a person or party makes an offer on condition that it not be used against them. For example, a grievance settled “without prejudice” cannot be used by either the union or employer in future cases.