British Columbia  -  Construction
While You Are Unionized
What Will Happen, If The Union Is Certified?

If the union is certified, the legal nature of your relationship with your employer will be totally changed.

Most importantly, by law, unionized employees lose the right to represent themselves. Instead, at union meetings, members vote on what they want the union to try to get on their collective behalf. Those things that get the most votes often become the union's goals when it starts bargaining with the employer.

Bargaining between the employer and the union is called collective bargaining. Any deal they reach is called a Collective Agreement. But, if they can't reach a deal sometimes there is a strike or lockout or maybe the members get rid of the union.

Finally, because the law gives some of your rights to the union, you are no longer able to negotiate or make changes to things like pay and hours (or any other working conditions) directly with your employer. Instead, only the union can make changes to your working conditions (that the employer agrees to or is ordered to make). It doesn't matter if it's a large change or just a small one. If you're in a union, you usually need to ask the union for permission or have a 'union rep' do it for you. Also, the union can decide to not address your concern with your employer.

Updated: 2010-05-04
What Is In A Collective Agreement?

It depends. Collective Agreements differ by industry, by employer and even by business location. Most use a similar format and are made up of various clauses, sub-clauses, appendices, tables, and schedules. Topics often covered are:

  • When strikes and lockouts can occur
  • Hours of work
  • Classes of employees
  • Pay and wage schedules – usually groups of employees are paid the same regardless of effort and performance
  • Hiring and job assignments
  • Layoffs
  • Technological change
  • Safety rules
  • Rules of discipline
  • The life span of the Collective Agreement
  • A process for dealing with disagreements
  • A process to collect union dues
Updated: 2010-05-04
What Do Union Dues Get Used For?

If a union is certified and there is a Collective Agreement, everyone in the bargaining unit pays dues – even if you did not sign a card, even if there was a vote and you voted no.

Unions incur costs while providing their services to their members. Since they don't sell any products, the union's expenses must be paid by its members - mostly by way of union dues. While amounts differ by union, union dues might then go to cover:

  • Salaries and benefits of office staff, secretaries and officers
  • Office space and supplies
  • Payments to the labour congress, the national union or the international union or all three lobby groups and various other political efforts
  • Travel and vehicle rental
  • Political parties and social causes the union leadership decides to give your money to
  • Handling grievances, collective bargaining and coordinating representatives
  • Research concerning pay, contract language and job descriptions
  • Legal fees
  • Strike funds
  • Training representatives
  • Newsletters, publications and web sites
  • Entertainment and recreation

There can also be initiation fees, fines, special assessments for a range of reasons. Ask the organizer for a complete list of fees, fines and current or past special charges.

Updated: 2010-05-04
What About Strikes and Lockouts?

Strikes and lockouts can only happen if you're unionized. A "strike" happens when the union members refuse to work. A "lockout" happens when the employer stops letting union members go to work. In Canada, millions of working days are lost to strikes and lockouts each year.

Unions go on strike for lots of reasons, including:

  • To support bargaining demands
  • To pressure concessions
  • To show support for other workers' causes

The Union will likely be required to take a “strike vote” before it can begin a strike. Once the union has a strike mandate, the decision to go on strike is the union’s alone.

Employees on strike may get strike pay from the union, but this is usually only enough to pay for their basic needs. By the way, the current Employment Insurance program does not allow an employee to collect EI benefits while on strike.

You may be able to work elsewhere but usually the union requires you to picket your workplace. The union can discipline you or even threaten to terminate your membership (so that, in some provinces, your employer may have to fire you) to get their way. Some employees have been fined or threatened with termination of employment by the union, simply for doing their own jobs during a labour dispute – a strike or a lockout.

Updated: 2010-05-04
What About Union Politics?

A union is a political organization. Its members may hold meetings to elect leaders and set common goals. Those members who attend the local union meetings will get to vote on what they think is important and, unless the national or international union steps in, these decisions usually steer the local union. Often these votes are by show of hands and not by secret ballot.

But, like most political groups, the skills, attitudes and motives of union leaders and members will vary. We suggest that if you are thinking about supporting the union, you should consider these things.

  • Find out as much as you can about the union - at the local level and the national or international level.
  • Who are the leaders?
  • Who else do they represent?
  • What do they think is important to members?
  • What's their track record on strikes and lockouts?

You should also try to collect information about your coworkers and what their goals, attitudes and motives might be. Once certified, those individuals will vote on what they want the union to do. For example, they may decide that they want to trade current pay for pensions or maybe the other way around - trade pensions for current pay. Because your coworkers will vote things that affect your work conditions, it is a good idea to consider what they will want and what is important to them.

Updated: 2010-05-04
Informed Employees | Informed Choices
Federal or Province

In most cases you will select the province where you work.

However, select "Federal and Territories", if any of the following apply:

  • You live in Northwest Territories, Nunavut or Yukon.
  • You work as a federal civil servant anywhere in Canada.
  • You work in one of the following industries:
    • airports or air transportation
    • broadcasting - radio, television or cable television
    • telecommunications
    • banking
    • fisheries (but only if your business relates to the protection and preservation of fisheries as a natural resource)
    • shipping and navigation (including loading and unloading vessels)
    • grain handling
    • uranium mining and processing
    • certain federal crown agencies
  • You work in one of the following industries AND (a) your activities connect one province to another OR (b) extend beyond the limit of one province:
    • air transport
    • canals
    • ferries, tunnels and bridges
    • highway transport of good or passengers
    • railway transport of goods or passengers