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Going Remote: Developing a Common Standard for Remote Labour Arbitration Hearings in Saskatchewan

Join the meeting on Zoom on May 20th, 2020 at 10 -11:30 am. Zoom meeting instructions are copied below.

Free and no need to RSVP.

Hosted by Scott Walsworth.


Members of the Saskatchewan labour relations community are invited to gather on Zoom to discuss the requirements for conducting remote hearings.  Participants will discuss a list of considerations including: platform selection, technical requirements and support, sharing documents, witness testimony, and privacy and security issues, among others.  The intent of the discussion is to move closer to a 'made in Saskatchewan' set of standards for conducting remote hearings.

Zoom Meeting Instructions

Scott Walsworth is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: CIRA: Remote Labour Arbitration Hearings in Saskatchewan
Time: May 20, 2020 10:00 AM Saskatchewan

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Meeting ID: 958 5962 6594
Password: 031528
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Meeting ID: 958 5962 6594
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Report from the CIRA May 20th Webinar: “Developing a Standard for Remote Labour Arbitration Hearings in Saskatchewan”.


Thanks to the insight of participants we had a useful discussion.  Of the almost 50 participants, we were evenly split between employer and union representative, and a handful of neutrals also joined the meeting.  The majority of participants had no experience with remote hearings but all had plans to join a remote hearing in the near future.  We discussed the advantages and disadvantages of available options for conducting labour arbitration hearings remotely and flushed out several common concerns.  The following is a short report of the items in which the group reached a clear preference.  While the parties are under no obligation to apply these standards, they have been recommended by participating members of the labour relations community as best practices.

  1. Platform: Zoom was identified as superior to Webex and Webex Teams mainly because of its ability to employ break-out rooms.

  2. Technical Requirements: The parties calling a witness will ensure adequate technical proficiency so participants can join the hearing and view documents submitted as evidence.

  3. Test Session: Especially in the early phase of remote hearings, it is advisable to hold a non-substantive test session, preferably one week before the hearing.  The test session should include all participants, break-out rooms, and the viewing of a ‘test’ document.

  4. Sharing Documentary Evidence: Rather than employing a web-based document sharing service (Google Docs or Dropbox), participants preferred distributing documents (PDFs where possible) before hand via email.  This approach requires a clearly understood system of titling documents.

  5. Break-out Rooms: The Zoom function to create a break-out room was deemed appropriate to create a private meeting space for counsel and the arbitrator; however, participants felt more comfortable creating their own meeting space to communicate privately with witnesses and principals (text or conference calling or even a separate Zoom meeting hosted by counsel).

Prepared by Scott Walsworth on May 30, 2020.

Resources for Remote

Labour Arbitration Hearings

Considerations for Remote Labour Arbitration Hearings

Written by Scott Walsworth on May 11, 2020

Web links provided for underlined text.

Although grievance arbitration hearings run independent of the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board (LRB), it is prudent for the labour relations community to ensure a consistent interpretation of the COVID 19 restrictions for conducting hearings.  The LRB released a directive on May 7th, 2020, stating that “[v]ideo hearings will be the default procedure for matters with contested evidence unless and until otherwise notified”.  The directive includes arrangements for conducting remote hearings until the end of July 2020.  In an effort to get back to the business of resolving grievances, several unions and employers and their advocates are in the process of scheduling remote hearings.  In preparation for an upcoming remote hearing, I spent some time gathering resources and reviewing the advantages of various remote meeting platforms (Zoom, Webex, etc.).  I hope the following resources are helpful and I wish you a productive spring.

At the same time that the LRB released the May 7th directive to employ remote hearings, it provided a set of guidelines for conducting remote hearings and if necessary, in person hearings.  These guidelines are intended for LRB hearings but they are useful for planning grievance arbitration hearings.

The National Academy of Arbitrators have offered two useful documents for holding remote hearings.  They provide a useful set of guidelines, including information on technical requirements, managing exhibits, witness testimony, breakout rooms for caucusing, privacy and security issues, and the advantages of Zoom as a platform.  They also have a 90 minute video covering the basics of running a remote hearing

A group of labour lawyers in Ontario working with the Ontario Labour-Management Arbitrators’ Association have created a useful list of responsibilities for neutrals (adhere to the principals of natural justice, holding a pre-hearing technology test, evidentiary considerations), and advocates (informing witnesses of responsibilities, providing technical training, using breakout rooms). 

This is a sample of the 'Remote Hearing Notice' I recently used for an upcoming remote hearing (click red buttin to the right).

Finally, the selection of the platform is important.  Some parties prefer Zoom and others prefer Webex.  I think they are both excellent platforms for remote hearings.  There are many training videos available for free online.  These are the links for the most useful videos: training video for Zoom; training video for Webex.

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