Ontario  -  Non-Construction
How to Decertify a Union

Introduction

Decertification basically means getting rid of a union. It happens when a majority of employees no longer support the union or don't want the union to represent them. If you can prove this you may be able to decertify the union. But, there are a few rules you need to follow.

Using our step-by-step instructions, you should be able to apply to decertify your union. If you need help, go to our "Contacts" pages and get in touch with someone listed there. By the way, others may call decertification "revocation of bargaining rights" or "termination of bargaining rights."

Timing your Decertification

You can only apply to decertify the union during an open time period. Those are:

If There is a Collective Agreement

  • After the start of the last 3 months of a collective agreement that has a length of 3 years or less.
  • If the length of the collective agreement is more than 3 years, then the open periods are:
    1. In the last 3 months of the 3rd year.
    2. The last 3 months of any full year after the 3rd year.
    3. After the start of the last 3 months of the collective agreement (occurs, for example, if an agreement is for more than 3 years but not for an even 4, 5 or 6 years).

An Example:

A collective agreement that lasts for 5 and a half (5 1/2) years or 66 months, would have the following 4 open periods for a decertification Application:

  1. In the last 3 months of the 3rd year (months 34, 35, 36).
  2. The last 3 months of the 4th year (months 46, 47 and 48) plus the last three months of the 5th year (months 58, 59 and 60).
  3. After the start of the last 3 months of the collective agreement (months 64, 65 and 66).
  4. If the collective agreement says that it will continue unless the union or the employer gives notice to end it or renegotiate it, also during the last 3 months of the collective agreement and the last 3 months of each year it is continued.

If There is No First Collective Agreement

If there is no first collective agreement 1 year after you are unionized (meaning 1 year after a union was "certified" to represent a bargaining unit of employees), then employees may be able to apply to decertify the union EXCEPT when the employer or union managed to get the Ontario Minister of Labour to appoint a Conciliation Officer. If a Conciliation Officer has been appointed then the open period gets delayed. This can get complicated, but generally the delayed open period when there is no first collective agreement works like this. The open period starts 30 days after the release of a "No Board Report", but is closed again if a strike or a lockout occurs and will only reopen on the later of:

  • 6 months after the first day of a legal strike by the union or lockout by the employer.
  • 7 months after the release of the "No Board Report" issued by the Conciliation Officer.

What is a "No Board Report" and When Does it "Expire"?

When a Conciliation Officer is appointed, they try to work with the union and employer to get a collective agreement negotiated and then voted on by employees who then accept rather than reject the agreement.

Sometimes a Conciliation Officer is not able to get a union and employer to agree to a proposed contract for the employees to vote on. At some point, one of the parties will ask the Officer to issue a "No Board Report". This means that a Conciliation Board (more than one Conciliation Officer) will not be appointed to work with the union and employer to try to get a deal. Unions cannot go on strike and employers cannot lockout employees unless certain things happen first and one of those things is that a No Board Report is issued and has "expired". No Board's expire 14 days after they are "deemed" to be released to the union and employer. Under the Labour Relations Act, a No Board is "deemed" to be released 2 days after it is written. Therefore, the No Board will expire at 12:01 a.m. on the 17th day after the No Board is written.

Once a first agreement is ratified in a secret ballot vote of employees, then the delayed or reopened window is closed. If employees vote to reject the proposed agreement, then the issue affecting the open period to apply to get rid of the union depends on whether or not a No Board Report has been issued or a strike or lockout has occurred (see above).

First Contract Arbitration

In Ontario an employer or union can apply to the Labour Board and ask for a ruling to require the union and employer to finish bargaining for a first contract with officials known as Arbitrators. When first contract arbitration is ordered, there will be a contract that lasts for at least two years and employees lose their right to vote for or against the contract and instead it is imposed on the employees. Any open periods that may have been coming up are basically cancelled and your open periods for getting rid of the union are moved out to the end of the collective agreement (see above for when open periods take place for collective agreements).

If Your Collective Agreement Has Expired and There is No Renewal Collective Agreement

If your collective agreement has expired then the open period that started 3 months prior to its expiration will continue EXCEPT when a Conciliation Officer has been appointed. Once a Conciliation Officer is appointed and the agreement expires, the open period stops and will not reopen until at least 1 year has passed since the Officer was appointed or 30 days have passed since the release of the No Board Report (whichever is later).

Get the Forms

Ontario has the most complex decertification process in Canada. Our website has ALL of the forms you need in one download. The Ontario Labour Relations Board website has some of the forms, but not all and each one is a separate download. If you call them they will mail you their forms including the multiple copies that you will need, but any forms they do not have official versions of will not be provided. You will still need the ones we have developed and included in our download or you will have to make up your own forms based on Ontario law.

Ontario Labour Relations Board
2nd Floor - 505 University Avenue
Toronto, ON M5G 2P1 - (416) 326-7500 - main phone number

See the Links section on the website to connect to the Labour Board's website.

Collecting Evidence of Employee Support - How to Decide Between a Petition or Individual Decertification Forms.

Using Individual Decertification Forms as evidence means you have one form for each person who supports the application. If the people you work with are worried about privacy the Individual Decertification Forms might be better than a Petition.

TIP: If you are using the Individual Decertification Forms, print one page (3 forms per page) and pre-fill in the employer and union name, (don't forget the union Local number if there is one) before making copies. Then, when you cut the pages into three separate forms, you have made sure everyone has the correct employer and union information. Don't pre-fill any more than the union's name though, read more about Avoiding Mistakes on the next page.

Using a Petition as evidence means that you can have many names on one page and you don't have to keep track of a lot of individual pieces of paper.

We have been told that people prefer a Petition because seeing the other names shows that they have support for their decertification application, it motivates others to sign.

If you think that would be good, you may want to use a Petition. But with other employee groups, privacy may be a big concern and some employees may not sign a Petition because other employees might or will see their name and signature. The Individual Decertification form will be better to use instead. The choice is yours.

Whether you use a Petition or the Individual Decertification Forms as evidence, make sure you avoid some mistakes that might help the union and the Labour Board block your effort to become union-free

Avoiding Mistakes

General Mistakes

To succeed, you may have to show that your employer wasn't involved in decertifying the union in ways that are not allowed. So, you should make sure that:

  • It was not your employer's idea to start the application.
  • No one from management offered anyone any reward or benefit for starting or continuing the application.
  • No one from management threatened anyone, if they would not support the application.
  • You have not been led to believe your application will be funded in whole or in part by your employer.
  • It is better to avoid using equipment at work such as computers, copiers and fax machines for your paperwork. It's a good idea that if you make copies at a store where you have to pay for them - keep all receipts as further proof that you did not use employer equipment. The union can accuse you of doing that as part of their effort to use a minor technicality to stop your application.

NOTE:You will not be filling in all the forms you have received in the download package, so don't expect to. The Board says that you must send the union and your employer some blank Labour Board forms and Information Bulletins that are in our Download package. This means that you will have to make several copies of some of these forms. In the case of the Information Bulletins you are going to make copies and never fill anything out on them at all.

Application Support Form Mistakes

Whether you and your supporters chose to use the "one page per person" Individual Decertification Forms or the "many person per page" Petition. It is important to notice that same statement wording must be on whatever you use. If you make a mistake and, as an example, you are in a hurry and use a blank piece of paper instead of a copy of the Petition page, the Board may refuse to accept that document as support evidence. There are some simple mistakes that you should not make.

  • Anything people sign to support the application must have the wording that is at the top of the Petition. You cannot use a blank page of signatures and just attach it, the Board will reject that. That is why the wording on our blank Petition is identical to the wording on our blank Individual Decertification Forms.
  • Before gathering signatures, you must complete the section at the top of our form, or any petition, to include the full name of the union, and the local if applicable, as well as the full name of the employer.
  • People who support your application should not sign an Individual Decertification Form or a Petition when they are working - they must be on a break during work or do it before or after work. The reason is that you are supposed to be working. If the employer knows it is happening on working time and does nothing, the union might accuse the employer of supporting the decertification by "turning a blind eye" to your efforts.
  • As well as signing, they have to print their name so that it is easy to read. This is a recommendation not a rule.
  • Every person who signs support evidence must write in the date while they are signing. You should not go back and get it later and you should not fill it in for them either before or after they sign.
  • If the union has a Local number make sure to include it in the union name on anything you send to the Labour Board, including support forms.
  • If you are using Petitions, number the pages that you use a format of page "1 of 5", then "2 of 5" and so on. If you have more than one Petition in circulation this will become important.

Build Support

You should not use threats or promises or pressure to get fellow employees to sign whatever evidence of support you chose, Individual Decertification Form or a Petition. You should think of one or two good reasons why you believe the union should be decertified. A businesslike and friendly approach works best. Remember, once 40 percent or more of your group sign a Card and you file your Application, there will hopefully be a secret ballot vote, supervised by the Labour Board, where every employee in the group can vote in private. Not everyone who signs in support will necessarily vote for decertification, but some who are reluctant to sign may vote for decertification in the secret ballot vote.

Check your collective agreement and read the section or definition about "bargaining unit." This is often called the "Recognition" clause, and is usually located near the beginning of the collective agreement. You will need to collect the names and signatures of at least 40% of the group mentioned in that definition.

You should also remember that it is quite likely that you will have to prove the signatures on your support evidence were given "freely" and "voluntarily."

As mentioned above, people who support your application should not sign an Individual Decertification Form or a Petition when they are working - they must be on a break during work or do it before or after work. The reason is that you are supposed to be working. If the employer knows it is happening on working time and does nothing, the union might accuse the employer of supporting the decertification by "turning a blind eye" to your efforts during work time suggesting that the employer wants everyone to know they support the decertification campaign.

Prepare the Forms

To properly complete your application form, you will need:

  • The name, address, and phone number of the applicant, and a contact person at the union and for your employer.
  • A description of your "bargaining unit" (see a copy of your collective agreement). Only use the full union name.
  • The addresses of all locations where bargaining unit employees work.
  • Approximate number of employees in your organization and in your bargaining unit.
  • The date the collective agreement was signed, when it became effective and when it expires.
  • A brief description about what kind of business your employer is involved in.
  • Evidence" that employees don't want the union - The Individual Decertification Form or Petition mentioned above.
  • A list of the names of the employees who signed "evidence" forms. This list must be alphabetical and on a separate page - we have provided a form for you to do this.
  • You also need to recommend a date, time and place for an employee vote. The vote will normally take place 5 days (excluding weekends and public holidays) after the day on which your application for decertification was filed with the Ontario Labour Relations Board. You should recommend who you want to "scrutinize" the counting of the votes. This person should not be a supervisor or manager working for your employer. It can be you.
  • We suggest you make four separate piles of all the forms you have to work with. Make piles for: the union, your employer, the Labour Board (who, where possible must get the originals), and yourself. Keep a photocopy of all original documents that you send to anyone else.

Deliver the Forms

Unlike an Ontario decertification in the Construction industry, when you apply to decertify a union in the Non-Construction industry you have to deliver the packages described below in a different order: First you deliver two seperate packages, one to the union and the other to your employer and then second, you deliver one to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (The last package to the Labour Board has to be delivered within 2 buiness days of when you delivered the first packages to the union and employer).

To The Union:

Deliver your forms package to the most senior union official responsible for your bargaining unit - likely the President of your local. Generally your Shop Steward is not likely to be considered to be the "most senior" and unions have been known to fight employee decertifications on the technicality of who is and is not the "most senior".

You can deliver your application and supporting documents to the union by hand-delivery, courier or fax. Make sure you deliver these documents to the union before you send them to the Ontario Labour Relations Board. One of the forms you have to give the Labour Board (the Certificate of Delivery, near the end of the Form A-6) asks you about how you sent the forms to the union. Remember to keep photocopies for your records of any original document that you deliver to anyone else (whether the original goes to the union, your employer, or the Labour Board). Also, keep any receipts that may get when you pay for faxing or for couriers as this will be additional proof if the union tries to complain about how you filed your Application.

You are required to deliver the following documents to the union:

  1. A completed form A-6: Application for Termination of Bargaining Rights. Send them a photocopy because the original has to go somewhere else.
  2. A completed form C-3: Notice to Union of Application for Termination of Bargaining Rights Under Section 63 of the Act. You just have to fill in page 1 with your Applicant's name, the full union name (Including the Local if there is one) and then date the form on page 3. Send them the original and keep a photocopy for your records.
  3. A blank form A-7: Response to Application for Termination of Bargaining Rights Under Section 63 of the Act.
  4. A copy of Information Bulletin No. 2: Termination of Bargaining Rights Under Section 63 of the Labour Relations Act.
  5. A copy of Information Bulletin No. 3: Vote Arrangements.
  6. A copy of Information Bulletin No. 5: Status Disputes in Termination Applications.
  7. A copy of Part III of the Ontario Labour Relations Board Rules of Procedure.

Yes, you really do have to provide copies of these Information Bulletins even though there is nothing you have to fill out on them. Our website has ALL of the forms you need in one Download. The Labour Board website has the forms too, but each one is a separate download. They will also mail their forms if you call them.

Click here to go to the Ontario Labour Relations Board for MS Word versions of the OLRB forms.

To Your Employer:

You can deliver your application and supporting documents to your employer by hand-delivery, courier or fax. Make sure you deliver these documents to your employer before you send them to the Labour Board. One of the forms you have to give the Labour Board (Certificate of Delivery near the end of the form A-6) asks you about how you sent the forms to your employer.

You are required to deliver the following documents to your employer:

  1. A completed form A-6: Application for Termination of Bargaining Rights. Send them a photocopy because the original has to go somewhere else.
  2. A completed form C-4: Notice to Employer of Application for Termination of Bargaining Rights. You just have to fill in page 1 with your Applicant's name, the full union name (Including the Local if there is one) and then date the form on page 3. Send them the original and keep a photocopy for your records.
  3. A blank form A-8: Intervention in Application for Termination of Bargaining Rights Under Section 63 of the Act.
  4. A blank form A-124: Confirmation of Posting;
  5. A blank Schedule C: list of employees for your employer to fill in.
  6. A copy of Information Bulletin No. 2: Termination of Bargaining Rights Under Section 63 of the Labour Relations Act.
  7. A copy of Information Bulletin No. 3: Vote Arrangements.
  8. A copy of Information Bulletin No. 5: Status Disputes In Termination Applications.
  9. A copy of Part III of the Board's Rules of Procedure.

Yes, you really do have to provide copies of these Information Bulletins even though there is nothing you have to fill out on them. Our website has ALL of the forms you need in one Download. The Labour Board website has the forms too, but each one is a separate download. They will also mail their forms if you call them.

Click here to go to the Ontario Labour Relations Board for MS Word versions of the OLRB forms.

To the Labour Relations Board:

You will need to file originals NOT copies of either the Petition or the Individual Decertification Forms you used to collect employee support signatures with the Ontario Labour Relations Board only and NOT with the union or your employer.

You can file your application and all necessary documents by hand delivery or courier. You may not send your documents to the Board by Registered Mail, e-mail or fax.

You must deliver the following documents to the Ontario Labour Relations Board:

  1. 2 copies of the completed form A-6: Application for Termination of Bargaining Rights. Send them the original and another photocopy. Don't forget to keep a copy for your records too.
  2. "Evidence" (Individual Decertification Forms or Petition mentioned above) proving that the employees do not wish to be represented by the union. The evidence must be in writing, signed by each employee who no longer wishes to be represented by the union and the date that the employee's signature was obtained (If you haven't yet, read the section above about our forms and their use.) Look at your current Collective Agreement to ensure that you put the full union name in the proper space on all evidence. Keep copies for yourself and send the original evidence - the Petition pages and/or Individual Decertification Forms to the Labour Board.
  3. A completed list of employees who signed the Petition and/or Individual Decertification Forms, in alphabetical order (you can use the suggested form for this that is on our website in the download package - you don't use the employer's Schedule C form).
  4. Completed form A-9: Declaration Verifying Evidence of employee wishes. Keep a photocopy for your records.

Our website has ALL of the forms you need in one download. The Ontario Labour Relations Board website has some of the forms, but not all and each one is a separate download.

A Final Word on Delivering Your Documents

The union and the employer must receive their documentation BEFORE the Labour Board does. You must also complete the Certificate of Delivery form located at the end of form A-6 after you have completed delivery to the union and the employer. The Board must receive its documentation within 2 days after you delivered the required documentation to the union and the employer or your application can be dismissed.

NOTE:If you are filing your application on the last day it is not clear whether or not you still have 2 days to file with the Labour Board or not. We strongly recommend you take no chances and if filing on the last day make sure the Labour Board gets their documents from you BEFORE 5 pm Eastern time, when the Board officially closes. Any documents received after 5 pm Eastern time are considered to have been received on the next business day that the Board is open. People may say you have until midnight, but the Board closes at 5:00pm. A fax received by the Labour Board after 5:00pm is considered to have been received on the next business day.

Conclusion

Once the Labour Relations Board gets your application, it'll review it to make sure that the correct procedures have been followed and that all required information is present. If the application passes this review, the Board will order the holding of a vote approximately 5 to 8 business days after the application is filed.

If the union complains about the process used, or questions the "voluntariness" of the application, the Board will likely "seal" the ballot box and not count the ballots until at least after all issues have been resolved. Remember, if your employer (members of management) were involved in your decertification application the Board could throw it out and not count the vote and you might have to wait for the next open period which could be at least a couple of years away.

If the Board agrees your application was voluntary, it was made at the right time and enough employees support it, the Board will count the ballots. If a majority of employees who cast a ballot vote for decertification, your application will be successful and the union will be decertified.

Click here to go to the Ontario Labour Relations Board for MS Word versions of the OLRB forms.

Updated: 2014-11-07
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