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Union / Labour Issues
627 Establishing & Terminating Union rights
- How are union representation rights established?
In the retail and industrial sectors of Ontario, union rights are almost always established by the Ontario Labour Board granting certification.
Unions arise when a number of employees concerned about the work conditions of a particular group of employees, get together and form a union. For example, in a company that has both plant workers and office workers, the concerned employees may be a few plant workers seeking to represent all of the other plant workers. In this example, the entire group of plant workers is called the "bargaining unit", and the few plant workers who seek to represent them will likely be part of the union organizing committee.
The concerned employees who have formed a union must then do 3 things to have the Labour Board certify the union's right to represent the bargaining unit. First, they must show the Labour Board that 40% or more of the employees in the bargaining unit support the union. The union will collect membership cards or applications for membership signed by individual employees who are part of the bargaining unit. Once it obtains 40% of the bargaining unit's support, the union will submit its application for certification to the Labour Board.
After an application has been submitted, the Labour Board will usually order that a certification vote be held at the workplace within five working days.
During the five days leading up to the vote the Labour Board will contact both the employer and the union to determine which employees are part of the bargaining unit and therefore entitled to vote. The Labour Board has developed extensive rules as to which groups may form their own bargaining unit. For example, in the industrial sector, plant employees and office employees are usually separate, as are full-time and part-time employees, and security guards. Each of these separate groups would be part of separate bargaining units although, except for security guards, they could be part of the same union. The Labour Board's rules about groups and bargaining units are both complex and evolving. For more information regarding these rules, contact the Ontario Labour Relations Board directly.
Once the Labour Board has decided which employees form the bargaining unit, a voters' list is created.
Sometimes disputes arise between employers and the union as to which employees form part of the bargaining unit. One reason for this is that employers would want to exclude supervisors and possibly propose as small a bargaining unit as possible, whereas the union will want to include all employees it feels want a union, and may want to propose as large a unit as possible. Such disputes may have to wait until after the vote to be resolved.
The secret ballot vote is conducted by a Labour Board officer. In order for the union to be certified as the bargaining unit's representative, more than 50% of the employees who actually vote must vote in favour of union representation.
- How can Union representation rights be terminated?The Labour Board is also involved in situations where union representation rights are to be terminated.
Employees may apply to the Labour Board for a vote to terminate a union's right to represent them. Such applications may be made only during very specific time periods. The most common of these time periods are:
- during the last two months before a collective agreement is to expire, and
- where no collective agreement has existed for a year, subject to certain complex rules.
For more information about collective agreements, refer to other sections of Legal Line .
If employees wish to apply to terminate the union's right to represent them, they must submit a formal application to the Labour Board. The application must be supported by a signed list of at least 40% of the bargaining unit members. The list must state that those signing it "no longer wish to be represented by the union in their employment relationship with the employer". The specific name of the union and the employer must be included in that statement.
The Labour Relations Act and the Labour Board require that employers have no involvement in an employee application for decertification.
To obtain forms for applying for decertification or for more information about the creation of union representation rights, contact the Ontario Labour Relations Board.