The dos and don’ts of unionization

Has a union begun the certification process with your employees? It’s totally normal for you to have some concerns. Read on to learn about the different steps of the unionization process and what the Labour Code has to say on the matter, for both employers and employees.

Unionizing is a right!
Let’s begin with an important concept: the law says that employee membership in a union is voluntary and confidential. Using intimidation to coerce someone into either joining or leaving a union is prohibited. As an employer, you may not retaliate (French only) if your employees decide to unionize.

Understanding the certification process
The Labour Code grants every employee the “right to belong to the association of employees of his choice, and to participate in the formation, activities and management of such association.” 

However, for this association to be officially established and have the right to act as the sole representative of employees to the employer, it must be certified. That is, it must demonstrate that a majority of the employees want to be represented by this union, which is usually evidenced by having employees sign membership cards.

Unions’ rights and limitations
Working from the principle that “employees have the right to a free and informed choice,” the law sets out the conditions for a union’s interactions with your employees:

  • Member employees are prohibited from soliciting another employee to join an association during working hours.
  • The « association of employees » may not meet at the place of employment during the union certification process.
  • Employees or associations of employees that do not comply with these two rules are subject to fines ranging from $100 to $500 for a first offence and from $1,000 to $5,000 for each subsequent violation.
  • The Labour Code also provides for criminal recourse against a union that intimidates employees to force them to become members.

Feel free to contact your CFIB counsellor to confirm any information or learn more about addressing a sensitive issue.

Employers’ rights and limitations
As an employer, remember that you must be particularly vigilant in your communications with your employees, as there are several rules that must be followed.

  • You may not try to influence, dominate, hinder or finance the formation or activities of any association of employees, or to participate in it.
  • You may not discriminate or retaliate against or intimidate an employee because they are involved in or support the unionization process.
  • You may not oppose the union in any way—in a letter or email or in conversation. You have the right to respectfully inform your employees of their rights, without making either threats or promises. It’s totally reasonable to suggest that your employees ensure they have all the facts before making such an important decision for their workplace.

Good practices during a unionization campaign

  • Make yourself available to discuss employee concerns.
  • If you’re asked, reassure employees that you will not send their personal information to union organizers without their permission.
  • Your workers must feel free to decide whether or not to hear or receive your message. You cannot organize meetings to share your point of view during working hours. It is, however, entirely possible to organize such meetings outside of working hours if employee participation is voluntary.
  • Avoid making any threats or promises, whether directly or indirectly, to lead employees to adopt your point of view.
  • You must not, in any way, use your authority as an employer to spread your opposition to unionization.

Do you have questions about a unionization process? Your business counsellor is waiting for your call!