What’s in Qweri for unions and HR Dept.?

hand_playing_chessIn a recent post, Pierre-Paul Lemyre promoted a concept of electronic collective agreements, collective agreement documents offered in a system using today’s web technologies to serve the needs of union representatives, HR professionals, as well as members and employees concerned by these contracts.

In this sequel, I summarize what union representatives and HR professionals told us about their needs in managing collective agreements. I explain how Lexum’s technology Qweri responds to them, more specifically to the interrelated needs for annotations, knowledge management and knowledge transfer. However, first of all, let’s turn our attention to the needs of those governed by these agreements, the employees or the members.


In my time as a unionized medical orderly in a large Montreal hospital, when a new contract was agreed upon, we were distributed a small booklet presenting the new contract. The booklet was small, yet the page count was surprisingly high. Our contracts were over 300 pages long. Most of us, who did not went through serious difficulties with the management, just kept the book somewhere to check on our rights about breaks, uniforms, eventual social paid days in case of the death or a wedding somewhere in your extended family and, of course, we also checked the salary scales. When disagreements with the management occurred over more complex issues as the meaning of a mobility clause and the scope of a confusing seniority mechanism we went to a union representative, and to be sure that what we were told was right we could start fishing by ourselves in the collective agreement booklet. Small thick books are not printed anymore. PDFs replace them.

PDF is cheap and this is a huge advantage, but it is not without drawbacks. PDF documents are not easily searched. One must search for the exact sequence of letters to find something. A clause establishing an obligation to “notify the Employer” will not be found if one search for “notification” in the PDF version of her contract. They are not easily annotated. Common PDF readers are crude and functionally limited. Summarily, PDFs print well, but their consultation is difficult. A one-pager press release in PDF is effective and convenient while a two hundred pages long work contract is not.

PDF is the equivalent of paper, without its costs. In today’s world, expectations are higher; people are used to the web, they expect to be able to search documents, especially long ones. Qweri is about providing the employees information tools in tune with our new digital environment. The contract will remain the same, but it will be easier for everybody to be clear about its content.


For an HR professional or a union representative both the life of the agreement and its renewal require the capacity to work efficiently with the text and the substance of collective agreements.

Collective agreements have significant human dimension and they affect relationship over a long period of time. They differ from most usual business contracts, for they govern the work life of dozens, hundreds or even thousands of persons, day after day over many years. Consequently, they are much more frequently consulted. Their clauses are discussed, their meaning disputed, and most of the time solutions, compromises are found. Among contracts, collective agreements remain at the forefront, they do not disappear in the background; they are more social, and consequently they are used and referred to more frequently than most of legal instruments.
Along the life the work contract, various events will occur. The management, or the union, will discover that a situation that should have been planned for was not. Disagreements over some clause will happen; solutions found. This should be recorded to instruct the future, to guide the settling of similar disagreements or to have on file when the time will come to discuss the next agreement. Ideally, settlements, difficulties, even questions left open should be recorded to be documented.

Qweri is built to serve that need. Any element of a collective agreement or of any published document could be commented by users. The comments can be private or personal; they could be public or share within a group of users. When published in Qweri, any clause of a collective agreement can be commented. The comments can be searched and printed. Eventually, the collective agreement will expire and will be renegotiated. At that point the value of what has been recorded along its life could be very significant. The ongoing assessment of the contentious matters and of the solutions imagined along the way constitutes a very important material for those who will negotiate the next contract.

Another functionality of Qweri must be mentioned in regard of its use as a tool for contract negotiators. Many collective agreements could be stored in a Qweri account. That way, all can be searched with very precise queries. In such a context, as a support tool to negotiators, a user can easily compare clauses with similar object in order to propose the one which appears to him the best for the situation at hand.


In any organization over time, people changes: union representatives find new affectations; HR professionals move on, all will eventually retire. Those who will have to negotiate the next collective agreement may not be the ones who lived through the expired contract. They may end up arriving in the game quite green and fresh and maybe even too much so. For an organization, union or employer, there is a need to have a living file of lessons learned; solutions find about what has become increasingly complex agreements. Qweri could flawlessly serve that need. Its annotation functionality and its powerful search mechanisms will help departing ones to transfer their knowledge to new comers.

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