Investigation and Mediation – The role of the Industrial Relations Officer (IRO)

What is an Industrial Relations Officer, and what do they do?

The Board’s Industrial Relations Officers (IROs) play an important role in the Board’s processes. 

IROs are neutral persons who are skilled in labour relations and mediation. Each complaint and application that is filed with the Board will be subject to an investigation to make sure that the Board has the information it needs to make a decision. 

IROs may help parties understand the process by:

  • providing information on the Board’s policies and procedures;
  • explaining the law;
  • explaining what they need to file with the Board; 
  • explaining what they need to prove to be successful;
  • being available to answer any questions that they have.

They use their mediation skills to help settle files when parties are willing. A significant proportion of files are settled by IROs at mediation and never go to the Board for a decision.

Finally, they conduct votes when employee support for a union needs to be determined. See the “Voting Process” section below for more information.

As each new file is received, it is assigned to an IRO, who reviews the case and contacts the parties to start the discussion. 

IMPORTANT: IROs do not provide legal opinions or strategic advice on a case.    

Why do files need to be investigated?

Mediation Process

What is mediation, and why would I agree to mediate my complaint?

Mediation is a process where the parties agree to meet with a mediator to try to resolve their dispute. The mediator helps the parties communicate to try to settle their differences. Sometimes the mediator can think of ways to resolve disputes that the parties have not considered. 

A significant number of complaints and applications filed with the Board are resolved by mediation. Settling matters gives parties certainty regarding the outcome, and it concludes disputes quickly as it avoids the decision-making steps of the Board’s processes.

What is the IRO’s role in mediation?

In addition to helping the parties and collecting information for the Board, the IRO acts as the mediator between the parties if they choose to participate.

When a case is assigned to an IRO, they will contact the parties to discuss the mediation options offered by the Board in detail. When the parties agree to participate and discuss all possible solutions, the IRO will help them to reach a resolution informally and confidentially. If the matter is resolved by mediation, the details of the settlement are not required to be disclosed to the Board (unless a party requests it), nor is the IRO required to file a report with the Board.

If the matter is not resolved, the mediator will not disclose to the Board any confidential information shared by the parties.

How do I prepare for mediation?

The best way to prepare for mediation is to assess what is most important to you and what you may want out of the mediation.

Mediation can sometimes bring back certain emotions. By thinking things through in advance, it will be easier to assess what is important to you and the solutions that may arise during the mediation. It is also possible to be accompanied by a trusted person who can offer you moral support and possibly advise you during the mediation meeting.

The mediator can also support you during your preparation by holding a pre-mediation meeting where you can share your concerns, ask questions, and talk about your expectations in a confidential manner.

What if I need language interpretation?

The Board can organize simultaneous interpretation in many languages for persons who need it, not just English and French. 

The Board pays for the cost of the interpretation.

Interpretation services can be arranged for mediations, Case Management Conferences and hearings. 

It is important that you let the Board know if you require interpretation services. 

Advise the Board as early as possible to avoid any delays in the process.

What does the mediator do during the mediation meeting?

The mediator oversees the process and ensures that everyone can express themselves. They will adapt their approach to the needs of the parties and facilitate discussions by:

  • asking questions;
  • rewording or reframing statements;
  • holding meetings separately with each party;
  • providing information on the Board and its procedures;
  • accompanying the parties in their search for solutions;
  • reorienting discussions; and
  • transmitting messages to the other party when instructed to do so and when appropriate.

Throughout the meeting, the mediator facilitates constructive discussions and resolution of matters.

How does mediation take place?

Mediation can take place virtually, in person or by teleconference. 

First, the mediator will have pre-mediation discussions with each of the parties individually. The mediator will explain the process, understand the matter, and confirm that the parties are ready and willing to participate in the mediation.

Parties are normally in separate rooms (virtual or physical) during this part of the mediation.

Next, the mediator may ask the parties to come together in the same room. The mediator will take a moment to introduce the process and ask an open question to one of the parties, to begin the discussion and to allow each party to understand the other parties’ perception of the dispute.  

The parties may choose to refer to certain facts of the file that are important to them, while keeping in mind that the objective of the meeting is to come to a resolution and to focus on the future, rather than on who is wrong and who is right.

While the discussion continues, the parties enter an exploration of resolution phase. Each party will propose and discuss resolution options, focusing on their needs to be met. This phase often allows for creative settlement.  

Sometimes the parties may not see any viable option for resolution. The mediator will work with the parties to overcome these impasses.

At all times, the mediator will adapt the process to the parties’ needs and may determine a better way to achieve positive results. In some situations, parties may remain separate until matters are resolved.

Reaching an agreement

When the parties find a resolution to their dispute, they reach what is called an agreement in principle.

The parties will then draft a written agreement. This process will be facilitated by the mediator.

An agreement generally includes a description of the resolution agreed upon by the parties as well as a timeline for its implementation. The mediator remains in contact with the parties until the agreement is signed.   

What happens when mediation doesn’t work?

The file continues its normal process before the Board if an agreement is not achieved in mediation.
When is the mediation service available?

Mediation is offered free-of-charge from the time the file is opened until the parties reach an agreement or the Board issues a decision.

Multiple mediation meetings can be held if the parties agree to participate.

Voting Process

When does the Board order a vote?

The Board may order a vote to determine whether a particular union has the necessary support of the employees that the union is trying to organize.

Votes may be held:

  • to determine support for a certification application; 
  • to determine support for a revocation application; and
  • to determine which union will represent employees when two or more unions want to represent the same group of employees.

How are votes held?

When a vote is ordered, the IRO working on the file will conduct the vote. They will, in consultation with the parties, arrange for the vote to be held and ensure that the employees are properly notified of the vote. 

The Board decides how the vote will be held. Votes can be held in person, electronically, or by mail.