Once the parties to bargaining have settled on all items to be bargained, a tentative agreement (a “deal”) has been reached. Although there is an agreement in principle by all parties, we refer to it as tentative because it must still be ratified (made officially valid) by the Members that the respective bargaining agents represent. In the case of a school board, this would typically be the Board of Trustees. For the central bargaining agencies, this would be the school board representatives’ group. For the union, this would be its membership. For clarity, education worker members would vote for a central education worker tentative agreement, while teacher and occasional teacher members would vote on a central teacher/occasional teacher tentative agreement.
Typically, the tentative agreement is established by the signing of a “Memorandum of Settlement” (MOS) by the parties at the bargaining table, which sets out the entire tentative agreement at the end of negotiations. The MOS serves as a bridge between the old collective agreement and the new one and has the force of a collective agreement until the new agreement can be produced.
The MOS sets out all agreed upon changes to the existing collective agreement. It also makes provisions for matters which must be dealt with immediately, such as the conditions for returning to work after a strike, timelines and process for ratification, the responsibilities of the parties to recommend the terms of the new agreement, and any agreements related to the implementation of its terms.
Once a tentative agreement is reached, the Union typically holds a general information meeting, explain the provisions of the tentative deal, and then have the Members cast a secret ballot on whether they accept the terms of the agreement.
It is important to clarify that, because of the central/local split, there are two tentative agreements to be reached – one local and one central – although the two eventually are combined to comprise a single, consolidated collective agreement for each Bargaining Unit.
In the next issue: What is a ratification vote?