Practical Law Glossary Item 4-504-1300 (Approx. 4 pages)
Collective Bargaining Agreement
Also known as a CBA or collective agreement. The labor contract between a union representing employees and the employer (management). A CBA sets the terms and conditions of employment, such as:
Working hours and conditions.
Grievance and arbitration procedures.
Limitations on strikes.
The union's rights and responsibilities.
Management's rights and responsibilities.
For Federal employees, pay and benefits are set by law and striking is prohibited.
Collective bargaining agreements are effective for a specified duration stated in the agreement, for example, three years. Unlike regular contracts, the parties' obligations do not end on the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement. Provided that a majority of the bargaining unit employees continues to support the union, union representatives and management must bargain in good faith for a successor collective bargaining agreement, during which time the terms of the expired contract generally continue.
Under the NLRA disputes regarding whether an employer or union are bargaining in good faith are resolved by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which has exclusive jurisdiction. Under the RLA, these disputes are called statutory disputes and are resolved by federal courts.
Employers and unions covered by the NLRA typically agree to arbitrate disputes regarding alleged breaches of CBAs. Under the RLA these disputes are called minor disputes and must be arbitrated.