Queen's University IRC

Managing Unionized Environments

Living the Collective Agreement




Collective bargaining may get all the attention of the outside world but smart, day-to-day relationship management determines the effectiveness of managers and unionized workers. It is the ongoing resolution of issues and problems that arise daily that will either create a culture of success or one of resistance and fear. In this skills-building program designed for both supervisors and union representatives, the use and application of the collective agreement is placed into an intensely practical context.


Feb 14 - Feb 17, 2022 Virtual Details will be provided after registration. Feb 11 $3,295
Jul 26 - Jul 28, 2022 Halifax Details will be provided after registration. Jul 21 $3,895
Oct 04 - Oct 06, 2022 Calgary Details will be provided after registration. Sep 29 $3,895




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Learn how to:


Learn both management and union best practices on challenging issues such as discipline, performance management, and job competition. Develop interest-based skills to help eliminate positional behaviour and engage difficult people, be they managers or workers. Reduce friction arising from the daily interpretation of the collective labour agreement. Start using the collective agreement as a platform for productivity and achievement.

a) Interests, Rights, and Power

We first distinguish three related yet distinct concepts in how all of us approach problem solving:

  • A focus on interests, which calls for engaging, motivating, and coaching 
  • A focus on rights, which involves setting boundaries, rights, and obligations 
  • A focus on power, which calls for discipline, accountability, and enforcement of boundaries

Understanding the distinctions, and knowing when and how to pull on each of these levers, is a crucial initial learning. How can managers and union representatives effectively use these processes? How can you get management’s attention on important issues?

We then do a deep dive into interests, using the Triangle of Satisfaction as a means to understand three types of interests. This will help you to better diagnose people’s behaviour in the workplace and resolve workplace issues. In many cases, union representatives are focused on one set of these interests, while managers are focused on a completely different area, often leading to frustration. Managers and union reps will learn how to engage on the full range of key interests.

b) Understanding Human Rights in the Workplace

With the help of a case study, we examine the law, rights, and obligations governing the workplace, with a focus on both human rights legislation as well as recent developments, such as Ontario’s Bill 168. We work through the following themes: 

  • How to recognize harassment and discrimination
  • The DNA of a poisoned work environment
  • How to manage issues that arise related to harassment
  • How managing performance is related to human rights in the workplace
  • What obligations that management and unions have in relation to human rights issues.

In this module, learn how to work effectively to build trust in the unionized environment, and how to apply power without causing long-term problems. Participate in a spirited discussion of the union’s role in building and maintaining a productive work environment.

c) Dissecting the Collective Agreement

You’ll learn all about the laws, rights, and obligations embedded in collective agreements that touch all parties. What are the key provisions and hot spots in the collective labour agreement that front-line managers need to know?

You’ll also be briefed on the grievance process. What is the front-line’s role in this process? What is the anatomy of a grievance? What are the best interventions from both a management and union perspective?

You’ll have an opportunity to identify the key areas for your own collective agreement, and develop strategies for starting to address those issues.

d) Managing Relations in the Unionized Environment

In this module, learn how to work effectively to build trust in the unionized environment, and how to apply power without causing long-term problems. Participate in a spirited discussion of the union’s role in building and maintaining a productive work environment.

e) Applying Key Interest-Based Skills – The Dynamics of Trust

Even when working with “rights” and “power”, you still need to engage people and build productive and sustainable workplace relationships. Trust is a key component of every relationship, workplaces included. What creates and builds trust, both on a personal and impersonal level? When trust is low or broken, what can help repair and rebuild it? How do we weave trust into everything we do, even when not everyone is getting what they want?

You’ll be given a clear and easy-to-implement template for building and managing trust in the workplace.

Build your skills in:

  • Eliminating positional behaviour
  • Effective listening in search of the “why”
  • Reality testing to engage difficult staff and effect change
  • Working effectively with difficult managers and members

f) Managing and Applying Discipline

When done properly, what does progressive discipline look like? How do you set boundaries that are respected? If you’re a front-line manager, how do you gather the facts and conduct a disciplinary meeting? When does the Human Resources department need to be brought in?

In addition, you’ll learn the best way to represent a member in the discipline process. What is best for the member, and the membership? How do you sell a result to the member that he or she may not like?

g) Performance Management that Works

Improving the performance of workers involves insight and a number of skills. Motivations need to be understood. Expectations need to be set collaboratively. In this module, learn how to: 

  • Set expectations
  • Give feedback that is heard
  • Execute on the maxim, “Gentle pressure, relentlessly applied”.

h) The View from the Union Hall

Hear the union perspective on discipline, performance management, and seniority. 

  • What does the union look for in “good” supervisors?
  • Union duty to represent – goals and limits


Gary Furlong

Lead Facilitator

Mercedes Watson

Guest Speaker

Al Loyst

Guest Speaker

Leanne Gray

Guest Speaker
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Gary Furlong

Gary Furlong has extensive experience in labour mediation, alternative dispute resolution, negotiation, and conflict resolution.  Gary is past president of the ADR Institute of Ontario, is a Chartered Mediator (C. Med.) and holds his Master of Laws (ADR) from Osgoode Hall Law School.  Gary is the author of The Conflict Resolution Toolbox, John Wiley and Sons, 2005; the co-author of The Construction Dispute Resolution Handbook, Lexis Nexis 2004; and The Sports Playbook, Routledge, 2018.

Gary has worked with the Queen’s University School of Industrial Relations conducting research into employment models of dispute resolution in Canadian companies. He teaches a number of labour-related courses at Queen’s University IRC, along with advanced mediation skills at York University.

In the labour area, Gary mediates collective agreements, grievances and labour board complaints for sectors as diverse as school boards, public health care, utilities, and airlines across Canada. Gary has delivered collective bargaining negotiation skills training for both management and union bargaining teams, bringing a strong focus of effective and collaborative skills to the table. Gary specializes in leading joint bargaining training for intact negotiation teams just prior to negotiations, with a focus on helping parties maximize joint gains at the table. In addition, Gary also conducts relationship building interventions to strengthen day-to-day union-management effectiveness away from bargaining.

Gary has worked with a wide range of organizations in the private sector, in the public sector with municipalities, provincial governments and the federal government, and with unions including Unifor, Teamsters, CUPE, ONA, OPSEU, and PSAC.

Gary was awarded the McGowan Award of Excellence by the ADR Institute of Canada. He is a graduate of Stanford University in California.

Mercedes Watson

Mercedes Watson, MA, BFA, C.Med. IMI, is the CEO of Dixon Hall Neighbourhood Services, a non-profit, multi-site, multi sector agency providing over sixty programs to those most vulnerable in Toronto’s downtown east with a mission to create lasting solutions to end poverty, social injustices, and isolation. Dixon Hall has been offering its services since 1929 and has a staff of over 300, many of whom are represented by CUPE local 2497, and focuses on the following services: seniors, housing and homelessness, employment, children and youth, and a celebrated music school.

Prior to taking on her role with Dixon Hall, Mercedes served as Senior Strategist and Founder of a boutique-consulting firm, Thought Department Inc. A portion of her consulting practice focused on labour relations issues as they related to mediation, negotiations and workplace facilitations. She is a regular facilitator at Queen’s IRC where she provides her expertise to core courses (Negotiation Skills, Strategic Grievance Handling and Managing Unionized Environments) and travels throughout Canada and the West Indies (Cave Hill School of Business and Management, Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business) on behalf of Queen’s IRC to deliver customized training to organizations and their union and/or management groups.

In addition to both a theoretical and practical understanding of culture, conflict management styles and analysis tools, her understanding of organizational change and change management has enhanced the effectiveness of her restorative work in organizations across the country. Her unique experience of being a lead negotiator on the management side as well as the union side allows her to more effectively assist and understand workplace issues.

From 1997 to 2010, Mercedes was the Chief Negotiator and Chief Executive Officer for the Union of British Columbia Performers (UBCP/ACTRA), the Director for the ACTRA Performers’ Rights Society (APRS) and the Recording Artists Collecting Society (RACS) all unionized workplaces. In her capacity as Chief Negotiator and Chief Executive Officer she led numerous international, multi-party contract negotiations, most notably with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents over 350 motion picture and televisions producers, predominantly the major studios in the United States. With UBCP/ACTRA she was also lead negotiator for management negotiations with the employee bargaining unit represented by the Canadian Auto Workers (Unifor). Preceding her work with UBCP/ACTRA, Ms. Watson was the Director for ACTRA PRS and RACS, managing unionized staff represented by the United Steelworkers and Canadian Office and Professional Employees (COPE). In her current capacity, and while with UBCP/ACTRA and ACTRA PRS she was responsible for terminations, discipline matters, privacy issues, workplace health and safety, mediations, arbitrations and human rights related matters. Together with Kenda L. Murphy, LLB, Mercedes co-edited the instructor training materials for Industrial Relations in Canada, Fourth Edition (2015, Fiona McQuarrie, John Wiley & Sons).

Mercedes holds a Master of Arts in Conflict Analysis and Management from Royal Roads University’s School of Peace and Conflict Management (MA) where her research focused on alternate dispute resolution systems and conflict management within complex organizational settings. She is a Chartered Mediator (C.Med) with an International Mediation Designation (IMI), serves on the roster of mediators for the government of Ontario and has been a member of the ADRIO C.Med Skills Assessment Committee since 2011.

Al Loyst

Al Loyst was a member of the Canadian Auto Workers Union (CAW) for 45 years. This unprecedented tenure provided him with valuable insight into collective bargaining and the unionized landscape as it has adapted and transformed in Canada. As a result of the unique roles that Al held at General Motors (GM), he has been able to utilize his skills to play an integral role in assisting the membership in obtaining solid contracts and fair employment. Al’s lengthy career with GM has offered him the ability to see change through a variety of different positions such as “wellness coordinator” (with the transition of the truck plant, Al was instrumental in bargaining for a fitness centre), human-rights investigator and human-rights facilitator, service representative for the membership and team lead on a pilot project in a self-directed work group. Al retired in 2017, as the second longest serving GM employee in their history.

Al held elected positions (dating back to 1992) and worked tirelessly at the CAW to advocate on behalf of the members. Throughout his years of service, Al dealt with employee benefits, sick and accident E.I. compensation, and pensions. He took on roles such as strike coordinator (1997) and was an instrumental part of organizing a plant occupation, which led to a settlement and the sale of the plant to Peregrine Inc. Al was a member of many bargaining committees, one of which negotiated a transition agreement with GM and Peregrine. In 1998, he was elected district committee person and was later amongst the negotiating committee members that successfully negotiated the first collective agreement in 2000.

Throughout his career, Al has utilized both traditional and interest-focused bargaining and has seen the impact of both styles of bargaining and their long and short-term effects on organizational relationships and union/management interactions.

Al has been a long-standing trainer with the Queen’s IRC Negotiation Skills and Managing Unionized Environmentsprograms and has completed both his Organizational Development and Labour Relations Certificates through Queen’s IRC.

He undertakes training across the country and is called upon by union and management teams alike to share his experiences to enhance and shape union and management relations across a broad spectrum of workplaces in the private, public, government and not for profit sectors.

Leanne Gray


Leanne Gray graduated with an Honours Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Toronto specializing in Psychology and Human Behaviour. She later pursued a post-graduate certificate in Human Resources and received her Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation, now titled Certified Human Resources Leader (CHRL). Leanne has been trained and certified in Advanced Dispute Resolution and is a qualified mediator.

Leanne has held positions requiring strong labour relations acumen, having consulted in the manufacturing sector and now working in the dynamic labour environment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP).  In prior years, as Director of Human Resources, she led Human Resources departments in performing their front-line functions to support in intensely unionized health care environments and in local government, in both small and large municipal sectors. 

Leanne’s roles as a strategic member of the senior leadership team gave her the opportunity to spearhead initiatives relating to labour relations and policy.  She held accountability for managing the recruitment, compensation plans, benefit administration, training and health & safety programs, as well as the employees in those disciplines. Leanne’s career has allowed her to participate regularly in grievance hearings, mediations, arbitrations and act as the Management Chair for collective bargaining. Her experience has included union certification drives, decertification of a union, strikes, lockouts and interest arbitrations.

Emphasizing that prevention and preparation is the best strategy, Leanne has created and facilitated training sessions for management teams in the areas of grievance management, conflict diffusion, behaviour coaching and policy application.

She has been a guest lecturer with Queen’s IRC since 2010 and has received her Certificate in Labour Relations from Queen’s IRC.