FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government has reintroduced amendments to the Industrial Relations Act that would require arbitrators to consider specific criteria when rendering decisions involving the police and firefighting sectors.

“We have heard from municipalities across the province that this is a significant issue for them,” said Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Trevor Holder. “They have observed that the wages and awards determined through arbitration are higher than those arrived at through the free collective bargaining process. These amendments will help address those concerns.”

The bill, like the previous one introduced in the last session of the legislative assembly, requires that binding interest arbitrations involving these sectors would:

  • require the arbitrator(s) to take into consideration a list of criteria when making a decision; and
  • require that the arbitrator provide written reasons, clearly demonstrating that they took into consideration all the required criteria.

In addition, the new amendments clarify language around a local government’s ability to pay and specify that jurisdictional comparisons be limited to municipalities within New Brunswick, unless the arbitrator deems it appropriate to consider others within Atlantic Canada. They also allow for the municipality to request a vote on the most recent offer presented by the employer even after the arbitration process has begun.

The latest version of the bill was presented following recent discussions with representatives from the police and fire sectors. Those conversations informed the final version of the legislation.

“The concerns of municipalities and unions were both taken into consideration in the preparation of these amendments,” said Holder. “We have heard from all parties and have worked very hard to present a bill that is fair and equitable for both sides.”

Under the act, police officers and firefighters do not have the right to strike and their employers do not have the right to declare a lockout.

These amendments do not take away the right to free collective bargaining or the right to access binding arbitration. They clarify criteria that must be considered during the binding arbitration process.

Binding arbitration is a last attempt to find a resolution once all the other steps have been taken to reach a settlement.