A glossary of bargaining terms

A collective agreement is a legal document, and uses its own formal language. Here are a few phrases and terms that can help members understand and write bargaining proposals.


A section of a legal document, such as a collective agreement or by-law. It is also called a “provision”, “clause”, or “language”.

Bargaining association

A group of unionized workers from different locals, different employers, and even different unions, who are covered by a single collective agreement. Members of a bargaining association are considered a bargaining unit.

Most HEU members are part of the Facilities Bargaining Association (FBA). Some others are members of the Community Social Services Bargaining Association (CSSBA), and the Community Bargaining Association (CBA).

Public sector health employers also belong to associations. The FBA and the CBA bargain with the Health Employers Association of BC (HEABC), which includes more than 200 publicly-funded health employers, including six health authorities. The CSSBA bargains with the Community Social Services Employers’ Association (CSSEA).

These employer associations are the accredited bargaining agents for employers. This means they are legally designated by the Labour Relations Board to bargaining in place of the actual employer.

Bargaining committee

This is the group of union members and staff who sit at the bargaining table with the employer. HEU members are always an essential part of this committee.

Bargaining associations elect committee members at their bargaining conference. In HEU’s independent sector, committee members are elected at a local meeting.

Bargaining conference

HEU's public sector bargaining associations hold bargaining conferences to prepare for bargaining. They are attended by delegates from union locals. This is where bargaining committee members are elected, and bargaining demands or proposals are finalized.

HEU’s independent sector may hold occasional bargaining conferences, to talk about common priorities and issues. Each local will still bargain separately.

Bargaining demand or bargaining proposal

A bargaining demand is any improvement or change you would like to see in your collective agreement. It can involve wages, benefits, working conditions, changes to language, and much more.

All members have the right to propose a bargaining demand for consideration by their local.

In public sector bargaining, the locals vote on these demands, also known as proposals, and then submit them to the bargaining conference.

The conference delegates will vote on these proposals, and will establish the final set of proposals demands that will be presented to the employer. Bargaining proposals that are not dealt with by the conference may be referred to the bargaining committee.

In the independent sector, the bargaining committee surveys members to determine priorities. They work together with an HEU bargaining rep to produce a bargaining demands package.

Bargaining unit

A group of workers who are covered by the same collective agreement. This can be a single worksite with one employer, multiple worksites under one employer, or a bargaining association made of multiple worksites, employers and even unions.


Benefits in your collective agreement can include health care, extended health care, long term disability benefits, pensions, vacation, sick leave, paid leave such as special leave, maternity top-up, or paid union education.


A union’s by-laws state how it is organized, and what rules it must follow. HEU has an overall set of by-laws for the union. Locals also have their own by-laws. Each local develops its own bylaws, following the HEU constitution and by-laws.

Your bylaws will determine how you elect bargaining committee delegates, the quorum required to make decisions at local meetings, and much more.

You can find HEU’s By-Laws here. Contact your local secretary-treasurer to see your local by-laws.


Community Bargaining Association. HEU often refers to our CBA members as our “Community Health” sector. It includes more than 2,300 HEU members working in health authority-operated and contracted community health services. The BC General Employees' Union (BCGEU) has the majority of CBA members, and is the lead negotiator in this bargaining association.

See “Bargaining association” above for more information.


Part of a collective agreement or other document dealing with a particular subject. See Article.

Collective agreement

This is another name for your union contract.

Collective bargaining

Negotiations between a union and employer for a collective agreement.


You will often see wages referred to as “monetary compensation.” Benefits and vacation are also considered monetary compensation. “Non-monetary items” can include such things as unpaid leaves, work flexibility, schedules or hours of work.

Comprehensive report

When the bargaining committee reaches a tentative agreement with the employer, the union will prepare a comprehensive report for members. It will include a copy of the full tentative agreement, and detail all changes to renew the collective agreement.

After reading the comprehensive report, members will be asked to vote on (or “ratify”) the tentative agreement. A tentative agreement may form the basis for a first collective agreement, for a newly organized bargaining unit.


A document that sets out the structure of an organization and its basic rules of operation. You can find the HEU constitution here

Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA)

This is a clause included in some contracts that commits the employer to further wage increases if inflation rates rise. The COLA rate is based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) calculated by Statistics Canada and reported by the BC government.

A COLA clause in your contract means at least a portion of the wage increase is linked to the effect inflation has on the cost of living.


The Community Social Services Bargaining Association. There are about 1,500 HEU members in the CSSBA, most working in group homes, day programs, transition houses and other community social services. The BC General Employees' Union (BCGEU) has the majority of CSSBA members, and is the lead negotiator in this bargaining association.

See “Bargaining Association” above for more information.


Community Social Services Employer’ Association (CSSEA) is the bargaining representative for the employers in the Community Social Services Bargaining Association of Unions (CSSBA).



An HEU member who has been elected by their local to represent them at an HEU conference or convention. Delegates are always democratically elected, according to HEU by-laws.


How many delegates your local is entitled to send to a bargaining conference.

Employment Standards Act (ESA)

The minimum employment rights that workers have. These laws usually set minimum wages, maximum hours of work, vacation, holidays and other working conditions. Both unionized and non-unionized employees have a right to these working standards, although collective agreements often contain higher standards.


The Facilities Bargaining Association. You may also see references to the FBA Agreement or the Facilities Agreement, and Facilities members. HEU makes up more than 90 per cent of all FBA members, and is the lead negotiator for this bargaining association.

HEU FBA members provide direct care and support services in hospitals, care homes, administration services and in the supply chain. They’re employed by health authorities, or by a number of affiliated care home and health care employers.

See “Bargaining Association” above for more information.

First collective agreement

A first collective agreement is typically negotiated between an employer and the union for a newly organized bargaining unit.


Health Employers’ Association of British Columbia (HEABC) is the bargaining representative for the employers in the Facilities Bargaining Association (FBA) and Community Subsector Association of Bargaining Agents (CBA) collective agreements.


This simply refers to anything written in the collective agreement. When bargaining refers to “new language” it often means making a change to a way a clause is worded, to make the meaning clearer.

If clauses in a collective agreement are frequently misunderstood by members or employers, you may want to suggest improving the language. Minor changes are sometimes called "housekeeping changes."

Letter of Understanding (LOU)

An agreement in writing between the union and the employer. An LOU is often part of the collective agreement.


A process for reaching a collective agreement or resolving a disagreement with help from a neutral person. The recommendation of a mediator does not have to be followed. Mediation is not “binding’ to the parties involved.

Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)

A written, signed agreement that identifies what the union and employer have agreed to in settling a collective agreement or other dispute. Both the union and the employer may have to ratify the agreement before it becomes a collective agreement.


A person or organization that is directly involved in a contract. The union and the employer are referred to as parties in the collective agreement.


The minimum number of members required to hold a meeting. Quorum numbers are based on the size of your local and can be found in the HEU By-Laws, Article 4 Section D. You can find HEU by-laws here.

Locals must have quorum at a meeting to elect delegates to bargaining conferences.

Ratification vote

A vote of bargaining unit members to accept or reject a tentative collective agreement (or other agreement). HEU holds ratification votes either in person, or using the Simply Voting secure online election platform.


A change that comes into effect on a past date that has been agreed on is referred to as retroactive. 

For example, if the previous collective agreement expires during bargaining, the renewed agreement is back-dated to the day after the previous one expired. If the renewed agreement includes a wage increase, you may be owed retroactive pay for an increase that dates back to the collective agreement start date.

Rules of order

These are the formal procedures that govern how HEU runs local meetings and union conferences. They are designed to ensure that meetings run in a fair and orderly manner, and that decisions are made democratically.

These rules allow everyone to express an opinion and be listened to respectfully in a fair and orderly process.

During decision-making you will see members move and second motions, debate motions on the floor, call the question (call for a vote) and vote on a motion.

There are also rules about how many members must be present at a meeting for a vote to be valid, and what percentage of members must vote on a motion in order for it to pass.

The rules can seem complicated. But a meeting chair should always make an effort to help new members understand how it works.

You can read more about HEU’s meeting procedure in the Chairperson’s Manual, found on our Local Executive Documents page.

HEU uses Bourinot’s Rules of Order. You may sometimes hear people refer to Robert’s Rules of Order, which are similar but slightly different.

Tentative agreement

Once the bargaining committee is satisfied that the membership’s key objectives are achieved, the union and employer reach a tentative agreement.

The union then prepares a Comprehensive Report highlighting the changes to the collective agreement. This includes all additions, revisions and deletions.

The tentative agreement is then brought to the members to vote on. This is called a ratification vote.