FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government has introduced amendments to the Industrial Relations Act to include first contract arbitration with the intention of promoting fairness and better relationships between workers and employers when they first enter into collective bargaining. Similar legislation is in place in other provinces.

“This legislation is about fairness and strengthening labour relations in New Brunswick,” said Labour, Employment and Population Growth Minister Gilles LePage. “Studies have shown that first contract arbitration reduces work stoppages by at least 50 per cent and that wage increases, among other provisions, enacted through arbitrated agreements are consistent with those reached through voluntary collective bargaining.”

“The New Brunswick Federation of Labour commends the provincial government in recognizing that workers had the right to join a union, now workers will have the right to a first contract within a reasonable time,” said Patrick Colford, president of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour. “Every time there are conflicts such as these socially, it translates into extremely painful situations for all involved. It is an important step for social and economic justice in New Brunswick.”

The government will refer the bill to the standing committee on law amendments for a period of public consultation before calling the bill for a vote at second reading. More details will be available on the legislative assembly website in the coming weeks.

The Industrial Relations Act regulates the collective bargaining process in the private sector, including in municipalities, at universities and in nursing homes. The process outlined in the act includes dispute resolution mechanisms for parties engaged in collective bargaining who cannot reach a negotiated settlement.

Amending the act to include first contract arbitration brings New Brunswick in line with all other Canadian provinces except Prince Edward Island, which has passed but not proclaimed similar legislation.