Why Do Workers Unionize?
Labor Union: A group of individuals working together to achieve shared job-related goals,
such as higher pay, shorter working hours, more job security, greater benefits, or better
Labor Relations: The overall process of dealing with employees who are represented by a
Collective Bargaining: The process by which union leaders and managers negotiate
specific terms and conditions of employment for workers who are represented by unions.
The labor movement started during the Industrial Revolution. Many employers simply
over-used their employees and made them work long hours in unsafe conditions with low
Unions developed as all of these workers tried to get their voices heard by their
The Development of Canadian Labor Unions
The first unions were formed in the early 19 Century in the Maritimethrovinces. Many
labor organizations formed and died in during this century. In the 20 Century, labor
unions began to develop rapidly. Unionism Today
In Canada, unions face both opportunities and threats.
Trends of Union Membership
Less than a third of Canadian workers belong to a union, so there is a decrease in
Women are now an important part of unions. More than half of the union workers
Highest Rate: Newfoundland
Lowest Rate: Alberta
Public sector is highly unionized.
Private sector is not at all unionized.
More difficult to get certification votes now.
1. Composition of the Workforce
Traditionally, unions were predominantly, white males in blue-collar jobs, but
today unions are mostly composed of women and ethnic minorities. Since
these groups have a weaker tradition of union affiliation, their members are
less likely to join unions when they enter the workforce. Also, the workforce is
increasingly employed in the service sector, which is not unionized a lot.
2. Anti-Unionization Activities
Employers have become more aggressive in anti-unionization.
Firms may offer better working conditions so there are no complaints.
Trends in Union-Management Relations
Since the unions don’t have as much power as they used to have, some unions are
recognizing that it’s best to work with the management rather than against.
Trends in Bargaining Perspectives
In the past, unions focused on increasing wages and benefits. Now they focus on
job security. Unions are trying to restrict management from outsourcing. Due to
the recession, it has become more difficult for unions to bargain for big wage
increases for their members. Unions are now focusing on pensions as well. The Future of Unions
Although unions have lost their power, it remains a significant actor in Canadian
business. What they have achieved – better pay, shorter work hours and safer
working conditions – now benefit non-unionized workers as well.
The challenges that face unions are:
1. Decline of formally powerful unions.
2. Employment growth in service industries where unions are not strong.
3. Deregulation, which has led to mergers and layoffs and the emergence
of new non-unionized companies.
4. Free trade and globalization of business, which resulted in many jobs
being moved to areas of the world with lower labor costs.
5. Technological change, which increases the difficulty of organizing
workers and threatens existing unionized jobs.
The Legal Environment for Unions in Canada
Industrial Disputes Investigation Act: Provided for compulsory investigation of labor
disputes by a government appointed board before a strike was allowed.
Privy Council Order 1003: Recognized the right of employees to bargain collectively.
Constitution Act: Divided authority over labor regulations between the federal and
provincial governments. This is why certain groups of similar employees may be allowed
to go on strike in one province but not in another. Federal Legislation: The Canada Labor Code
The Canada Labor Code: Legislation that applies to the labor practices of firms
operating under the legislative authority of parliament. It is composed of 3
1. Industrial Relations
It deals with maters related to collective bargaining and divided into 7
1) Division 1:
Gives employees the right to join a trade union and gives
employers the right to join an employers association.
2) Division 2:
Establishes the Canada Labor Relations Board and it makes
decisions on important issues like the certification of unions.
3) Division 3:
Stipulated the procedures required to acquire or terminate
4) Division 4:
Establishes rules and regulations that must be adhered to during
5) Division 5:
States the requirement that the Minister of Labor must appoint a
conciliation officer if the parties in dispute cannot reach a
6) Division 6:
Stipulates the conditions under which strikes and lockouts are
7) Division 7:
Methods that might be used to promote industrial peace.
2. Occupational Health and Safety
Responsibilities of both employers and employees in maintaining a safe
3. Standard Hours, Wages, Vacations and Holidays
This section deals with issues regarding working hours, wages,
vacations and holiday leaves and the equality of these things among
different employees. Provincial Labor Legislation
Each province has its own legislation to deal with the personnel practices covered
in the Canada Labor Code.
Ontario Labor Relations Act: It deals with the conduct of labor relations in the
province. Some examples are:
1. A trade union may apply at any time to the OLRB for certification.
2. OLRB has the right to call for a certification vote. If more than 50% of
those votes are in favor of the union, it will be certified.
3. After the certification, the union gives the employer a written
notification of its desire to bargain.
4. Minister of labor appoints a conciliation officer to help achieve a
5. Parties may jointly agree to submit unresolved differences to voluntary
6. Employers are required to deduct union dues from the union members
and remit these dues directly to the union.
7. Every agreement must include a mechanism for settling grievances.
8. If a person objects to belonging to a labor union due to religious beliefs,
s/he is allowed to make a contribution equal to the amount of the union
dues to a charitable organization.
9. If a collective agreement is not negotiated within one year of
certification, any employee in the union can apply for decertification.
10. No employer can interfere with the formation of a union.
11. No employer shall refuse to employ an individual because of
membership in a trade union.
Although the general provisions are consistent, minor details may differ depending
on the provinces. Administering labor relations activity takes time and is complex
but the government, management and union spend time and energy in order to
ensure reasonable relations between management and labor. Union Organizing Strategy
Certifying a Union
Bargaining Unit: Individuals grouped together for purposes of collective
If more than 50% of employees of a company are members of the union, it can