Co-development Guidelines

Describes and clarifies the concept of co-developing workplace improvements that the employer and bargaining agents have at their disposal in order to work together, with some considerations for their use.
Date modified: 2005-04-01
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1. Introduction

The Preamble to the Public Service Labour Relations Act significantly affirms that collaborative efforts between the parties, through sustained communication and dialogue, improve the ability of the Public Service to serve and protect the public interest.

In the Act, there are two key provisions designed to promote dialogue, communication, and interaction between the parties:

  • mandatory labour-management consultation committees; and
  • enabling co-development of workplace improvements that encourages research, development, and agreement on solutions to issues or problems that specifically affect the workplace.

This framework briefly describes and clarifies the concept of co-development of workplace improvements that is available to the parties to work together and will provide employer and bargaining agents with some considerations for its use.

2. Legislative foundation

The Public Service Labour Relations Act (PSLRA, sections 9,10, and 11), enacted by the Public Service Modernization Act , contains a provision under which the employer and a bargaining agent or the deputy head and a bargaining agent may engage in co‑development of workplace improvements. PSLRA also provides that the parties can work together through the National Joint Council or any other organization on which they agree, such as a labour-management advisory committee, or a subcommittee or working group.

3. Application

The existing guidelines apply to departments and agencies listed in Schedules I and IV of the Financial Administration Act for which the Treasury Board is identified as the Employer.

4. Terminology

Definitions of the various expressions (e.g., bargaining agent, bargaining unit, employee, employer) used throughout this proposal will be found in the PSLRA.

5. The meaning of co-development

Section 9 of PSLRA defines co-development of workplace improvements as "consultation between the parties on workplace issues and their participation in the identification of workplace problems and the development and analysis of solutions to those problems with a view to adopting mutually agreed to solutions."

This definition can be understood as a mechanism that offers the parties an opportunity to broaden the scope of management-bargaining agent consultation already provided under the Act, which in itself is an obligation of the deputy head.

While the definition in the Act refers to "problems," co-development of workplace improvements can also be understood as a useful mechanism to allow the parties to work together in developing a project designed to respond to a question or a need that promotes continuing improvement of the workplace.

It is very important that the parties ensure at the outset that:

  • the issue, problem, or project has been clearly defined; and
  • they have a mandate to engage in co-development of the desired product or result.

The results of a co-development can take many forms, such as a directive, a policy, a rule of procedure, a set of procedures, a method of implementation for a measure determined by the parties, or a jointly identified project.

Co-development and co-management are often terms that are seen as synonyms, however they are distinct and separate processes.

  • Co-development is a voluntary process where management and bargaining agent work together on a jointly defined or desired matter in order to produce an agreed result. The employer is normally responsible for implementation of the product or result as well as for its continuing administration.
  • Co-management is a process where both management and bargaining agent share authority and decision over a jointly owned product or program.

6. Principles and attributes

Key principles and attributes are critical for successful co-development. They encourage new ways of seeing and doing things that enable the participants to address and solve issues or to achieve a project. They include the following:

  • Co-development is voluntary and parties participate with equal status.
  • Co-development is based on the principle of co-operation and is consensual.
  • Co-development requires a commitment from senior management and representatives of bargaining agents with the necessary authority for implementation.
  • Co-development implies that the parties deal with the issues within a mandate that allows them to examine all of the options to be considered. It is also important to recognize that during the process the parties may want to validate options with their constituents.
  • Co-development is flexible and encourages the expression of different points of view, while never losing sight of the goal that the parties have originally identified as their shared objective.
  • Co-development requires persistence and parties must actively work to build trust.
  • The results of the process belong to both parties and both parties are committed to supporting them. Regardless of the level of success of the process, the parties have to maintain relations.

7. Prerequisite conditions

It is recommended that an organization make a preliminary evaluation of the state of management-bargaining agent relations if the parties are considering committing themselves to a co-development.

It is necessary to evaluate carefully and jointly the capacity and maturity of employer-bargaining agent relations in order to ensure that the problem or project being considered is suitable for such an approach.

This evaluation may include:

  • a review of consultation experience, particularly the quality, the practices, the substance, or the complexity of subjects dealt with;
  • the quality of employer-bargaining agent relations, especially aspects such as the confidence, frequency, formal and informal nature, and level of dialogue;
  • the knowledge of the parties in such subjects as labour relations, conflict resolution, human resources management, and the need for any related training;
  • the determination of common interests that could be dealt with using co‑development;
  • the level of commitment from management and bargaining agent to allow the use of co-development and to implement or support the outcome;
  • adoption of operating rules and, particularly, an agreement to proceed by consensus (the report of the Public Service Commission Advisory Council Working Group on Co-development outlines a comprehensive approach to co‑development and includes a stepwise model and practical suggestions–see "Best Practices" and "Bibliography" below);
  • adoption of conditions related to the participation of the parties to the needed activities as set out in section 7.3 of the Labour-management Consultation Committee's Guidelines; and
  • respect for the rights of the parties and adherence to any applicable legislation and existing collective agreements.

8. Phases of a co-development model

Co-development is based on a problem-solving approach. To succeed, the parties must previously agree to participate on the basis of clear and converging interests and to the principles and attributes previously enunciated.

Co-development has four main phases:

  • identification of the project or problem, ensuring appropriate representation and resources and agreeing about roles and accountabilities;
  • researching the facts and looking at options;
  • ranking the solutions in order of preference and criteria and addressing impasses if any; and
  • arriving at a consensus on a solution and of a method or plan for implementation, monitoring, and communication.

It should be recognized that, at some point during the course of the initiative, either party or both parties might want to review the definition of the problem, to clarify the project, or to explore other possible solutions. This feedback loop is key to keep the process viable. It is possible that an impasse may be reached. The participants must demonstrate a determination to overcome the impasse and may seek the services of a facilitator to do so. If a consensus cannot be reached, the parties may come to the conclusion that the initiative cannot succeed.

It is important that co-development of workplace improvement activities be well documented. The existing guidelines on consultation committees include appropriate recommendations.

Consultation committees should be involved in overseeing co-development. Depending on the size of the organization, it could be appropriate to establish a steering committee to monitor or co-ordinate co-development activities.

Although the implementation of all products resulting from co-development efforts remains the employer's responsibility, it should be jointly planned, endorsed, and marketed. Clear accountabilities need to be outlined and feedback shared.

9. Best practices

Current examples of departments where co-development has been used to handle workplace issues include National Defence, Health Canada, and Industry Canada. Details regarding their successful efforts at co-developing policy can be obtained from their corporate Human Resources officials.

Other examples of co-development initiatives include the following:

Wherever possible, organizations that have worked out co-development Terms of Reference or framework are encouraged to share these, for example by posting them on their Web sites.

10. Reference documents

11. Bibliography

The following publications provide interesting reading or reference on the subject of co‑operation in labour relations and on the concept of co-development of workplace improvements. They are a useful introduction or enhancement of knowledge on this subject.

  • Brock, Jonathan, and David B. Lipsky, eds. Going Public: The Role of Labor-Management Relations in Delivering Quality Government Services.ILR Press, 2003.
  • Canada. Advisory Committee on Labour-Management Relations in the Federal Public Service. Working Together in the Public Interest(the "Fryer Report"), 2001.
  • Canada. Working Group on Co-development, Public Service Commission Advisory Council. Co-development in the Public Service of Canada, 2003.
    This document describes extensively the process of co-development and includes a comprehensive stepwise model. It is recommended to consult the section " Making Co‑development Work ."
  • Fisher, Roger, William Ury, and Bruce Patton. Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In.2nd ed. Penguin Books, 1991.
  • Walton, Richard E., and Robert B. McKersie. A Behavioral Theory of Labor-Management Relations. An Analysis of a Social Interaction System. ILR Press, 1991. (See in particular Chapter IV, "Integrative Bargaining Model.")

12. Inquiries

Inquiries should be directed to departmental human resources officers who, in turn, may direct inquiries to:

Labour Relations Sector
Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the President of the Treasury Board, 2017,
ISBN: 978-0-660-09578-3

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