We study public‐sector bargaining and contract outcomes using Canadian data from 1978 to 2008. We have a number of interesting results, but our principal findings are from our analysis of wage settlements. We find that the essential services designation, which only allows non‐essential members of a bargain unit to strike, is associated with decreases in wages. Our estimates also suggest that there is an arbitration wage premium and that making adjustments to the ability to pay criterion used by arbitrators to determine awards does not affect this premium. We also discuss the implications of our estimates.