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Chapter 3

LAW 529 Chapter Notes - Chapter 3: Ontario Public Service Employees Union

Law and Business
Course Code
LAW 529
Pnina Alon- Shenker

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Organizing a Workplace
Initially, the legal system treated unionization as an illegal restraint of trade, and organizers of unions were punished.
The law was changed to make unions legal, but this did not make unions the automatic representatives of the workers
The only mechanisms for a union to be made the representative for workers were either the exercise of force through a strike
or, less commonly, a voluntary agreement by the employer to accept the union
This issue of recognition led to work stoppages
To reduce instances of industrial conflict, the labour legislation was again amended
It replaced a system of recognition based on labour power with a system of determining representative rights through a legal
process based on membership evidence and workplace votes
Labour boards were invested with the power to supervise this legal system, including the power to award unions with
representation rights and to authorize sanctions against parties who violated the rules
Present system in Ontario: union solicits workers to sign membership cards , union signs enough members, applies to OLRB,
board conducts vote, union wins; board issues certificate stating the union now represents a specific group of workers ,
employer must now bargain with those workers, board will also deal with disputes over technical issues with present process
Workers organize in unions to obtain greater bargaining power and to use this power to obtain better terms and conditions of
employment from their employer (i.e. higher salaries, improved benefits, and increased job security based on seniority)
Union workers who wish to improve their terms and conditions of employment must either request improvements, and threaten
to quit if these improvements are not given, or simply quit and go to another employer offering better terms
oThe employer may grant improvements if a worker has special skills that is hard to replace
oThe employer may refuse the request and replace that worker if he or she quits
oThe worker may find better conditions elsewhere or, if not, may have to remain under the existing conditions
Workers can use collective action to obtain improvements
All the workers collectively decide on what improvements should be requested and withdraw services in concert if the
employer does not offer adequate improvements
oThis action gives workers greater power and result in enhanced working conditions
Unions engaged in organizing a workplace will try to persuade workers to join the union by selling workers on the benefits of
the union.
Union will improve working conditions through:
oJob security based on length of service;
oIncreased salary and benefits;
oGrievance procedure to resolve disputes;
oAssistance of union representatives both within the workplace and external agencies:
Internal assistance: grievances
External assistance: research and information
oA collective agreement that spells out their rights and benefits (voice);
oCollective bargaining, which will give them more power
Who Can Organize?
A “trade union” under s. 1 of the OLRA must:
Be an organization of employees (negotiating wages, benefits, and other aspects of its members work lives);
Bargain to improve working conditions (as one of the objectives)
Must also be an operating organization that includes officers who are responsible for the actions of the organization and some
for of constitution to govern the operation of the org
Union must be an organization of “employees” as defined under the act
Union MUST be set up at the time an application to the OLRB is made
Trade union must have as one of its objectives “ the regulations of relations b/w employees and employers”

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This means the purpose of the union must include negotiating to improve wages, benefits and other aspects of its members
work lives
o(i.e. Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) includes the following aim :
- (a) To regulate labour relations b/w the members and their employers and managers, said labour relations to
include the scope of negotiation, collective bargaining, the enforcement of collective agreements and health and
safety standards and safeguarding human rights)
For a new union, this means it must have had a meeting of its members to adopt its founding document and elect its officers,
such as president, vice-president, and treasurer. Local 199 UAW Building Corp: a new union should follow this process:
1. Drafting a constitution for the organization. The constitution should set out the purpose of the organization.
One of the purposes must be the regulation of labour relations. The constitution should also set out
procedures for electing officers and calling meetings;
2. Calling a meeting of employees to approve constitution and to elect officers;
3. Admitting employees at the meeting to membership;
4. Voting by the members at the meeting to adopt the constitution;
5. Electing officers according to the newly adopted constitution.
Union appearing before the board are established and over time have made numerous applications
Sec.113 of the Act provides that once an org has been determined to be a trade union, then that finding will apply in
subsequent cases unless evidence to the contrary is provided
How Do Unions Organize A Workplace?
Unions organize a workplace by initiating an organizing drive
Many unions employ professional organizers who sign up members and prepare the applications for the labour board
In other cases, dissatisfied employees at the workplace approach a union to initiate an organizing drive, or the unions
organizers may approach employees, who then agree to join the union
Methods To Get Members To Join The Union
CAW (Canadian Auto Workers) and CLC (Canadian Labour Congress): OLL (Ont. Labour Legislation) union has to get 55%
of employees to sign membership cards before the UAW (United Auto Workers) would be recognized as the official
bargaining agent (first step is to figure out home many people worked in the plant/ org)
Depends on an assessment of how best to reach Employees Without Alerting The Employer until the drive is well on its way
The union hopes that the employer does not become aware of the organizing drive until the organizers give the employer a
copy of the application that has already submitted to the board
If the employer learns of the organizing drive, it may attempt to block it
In case where a dissatisfied worker approaches a union, the union will have to ensure that this worker is an employee under the
Determine why employee/employees are dissatisfied and create a campaign as to how they will satisfy those needs
Approaching the employees: If the union does not have contact at a particular workplace, it may have to resort to following
workers home at the end of the day (as described by Bob White “CAW & CLC”)
Unions may try to meet workers at a location near the plant, such as transit stop or restaurant, in order to stop the drive, even
approach workers at home
Union will also contact employees who may have access to lists of addresses of employees
Unions now operate websites, which include a section where a worker can contact the organizing department in confidence to
discuss joining the union
Union may use visible plant gating: activity where organizers show up at the workplace when employees are entering for their
shift in order to give them info on the union and encourage them to join
Drawback: immediately alerts employer
Union may invite worker to mass meeting at the union hall to listen to union speeches and then ask workers to sign up
What Is The Goal Of The Organizing Drive?
A union must get a sufficient number of employees to sign a membership card in order to trigger a certification vote at the
workplace. Then, the union must win the vote

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Sec. 8(2) and 10(1) require that at least 40% of the employees in the bargaining unit sign up as union members and that over
50% of the votes in a certification vote be in favour of the union
If these conditions are met, the union will be certified, as the bargaining agent for a group of workers and the employer will be
required by law to deal with that union
If the union only able to sign up the minimum of 40 percent, it is unlikely to succeed in the vote
Ideally , a union will attempt to persuade all the employee to become members
Who Is Eligible?
A trade union is certified to represent a group of employees
OLRA sets out who are employees for the purpose of that Act
Workers who are not employees under the OLRA often do organize, but in a form different from that of a certified union and
some do have considerable bargaining power based on their specialized skills
Significant groups excluded from the definition of employees under s. 1(3) of the Act:
oManagers: persons who direct the organization;
oConfidential: persons who have access to sensitive material on labour relations matters;
oProfessionals: specific employment groups who have been historically excluded from collective bargaining.
If the unions signs up members who are later determined to be managers or confidential, their cards and votes will not be
A manager is not an employee for the purposes of the OLRA
There is an inherent conflict if a person who makes the workplace rules is part of a trade union asking for changes to those
The title of a person is not crucial. It is the actual functions performed by that person
Generally, a manager is a person who makes decisions that affect the economic lives of other workers
Activities include:
A person may still be a manager even though he or she doesn’t make the final
decision if his or her recommendation is subject in practice to automatic approval (rubber stamping) by a supervisor is called
effective recommendations
Merely directing the work of others (I.e. lead hands) – not managers under act and can be part of the union
Whichever party wants to argue that certain employees are managers bears the burden of proof
If the trade union signs up members who are later determined to be managers, the membership evidence for these workers will
not be counted for the purpose of determining whether the union has sufficient support to trigger a vote
A confidential is a person employed in a confidential capacity in labour relations matters and is not an employee under the
Workers would be in a tremendous conflict of interest
(I.e. workers in human resources departments are privy to confidential information that is used by employers to form
proposals or responses in collective bargaining or grievance negotiations. If such workers were granted union membership,
the Act argues, they could reveal this information to the union to enhance its bargaining power)
Employees entrusted with confidential matters; risk breaching employment contract if they revealed those matters to union,
therefore they are excluded from collective bargaining
The person must have a regular and material involvement in collective bargaining matters (I.e. workers in human resources
- Making Policy decisions for org,
including decisions
-Determining wages
-Determining work schedules
-Determining vacation schedules
and other benefit
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