Why Your Workplace Needs to Unionize

In a non-unionized workplace, the terms and conditions of the employee’s employment are governed through oral or written employment contract between the employee and the employer, and employment standards legislation.

In a unionized workplace, however, a trade union that has been chosen by the majority of the employees will act as the employees’ exclusive agent in negotiating terms and conditions of employment with the employer, which are then set out in a document commonly referred to as a collective agreement.

The process of choosing a union to represent the employees in a workplace is commonly referred to as “organizing”. While the benefits of having a unionized workplace are numerous, in this article, we have outlined the top five reasons why non-union employees should organize their workplace and obtain union representation.

A trade union consists of an organized group of employees in a trade or profession that unite in order to achieve better working conditions for all the employees in furtherance of their interests and rights.

The union acts as the employees’ exclusive agent in negotiating terms and conditions of employment with the employer, which are then set out in a document commonly referred to as a collective agreement.

Top Five Reasons Why You Should Organize Your Workplace and Obtain Union Representation

  1. Better Wages

A fair wage for a day’s work is universally desired by every employee. That is why we have listed better wages as our number one reason as to why employees should organize their workplace.

Studies have consistently established that employees in unionized workplaces earn higher wages in comparison to their non-unionized counterparts. This difference in wages is predominantly due to the union’s negotiating power that stems from its representation of the employees as a group which, in turn, allows it to win wage increases that are superior to those that employers are willing to offer to individual employees in a non-unionized setting.

  1. Better Benefits

Studies show that employers in unionized workplaces, on average, contribute a higher percentage of compensation towards fringe benefits, such as pension, life insurance, accidental death insurance, and health insurance. This, in turn, results in either a reduction or elimination of contributions by the employee towards the same benefits.

  1. The Ability to Enforce the Terms and Conditions of Employment

Both provincial and federal labour legislation state that a collective agreement must have a provision for dealing with any and all differences between the employees that are bound by the collective agreement and the employer concerning the interpretation, application, administration, alleged contravention of the collective agreement (i.e., the grievance process). Respectively, in a unionized workplace, if employees have any concerns regarding the terms and conditions of their employment, they can seek the assistance of the union in addressing those concerns through the grievance and arbitration process provided under the collective agreement. Most importantly, any expenses related to the arbitration process is paid for by the union and the employer, with the employee not having to incur any expenses for obtaining legal representation throughout this process. The arbitration process is able to deal with a variety of issues ranging from unjust termination to breach of the employee’s human rights.

In contrast, if non-unionized employees are unjustly terminated or discriminated against by their employers, they have to pursue the claims they have against their employer either by starting an action in court or by filing a complaint against the employer pursuant to the employment standards or human rights legislation. In the majority of the circumstances, the employee will require the assistance of a legal counsel to pursue his or her claim against the employer, which means the employee will have to pay out of pocket for the associated legal expenses.

Respectively, employees working in a unionized setting are able to enforce the terms and conditions of their employment or address any other work-related concerns in a more efficient manner without incurring out of pocket expenses in comparison to their non-unionized counterparts.

  1. Access to Seniority

One of the most fundamental rights to which employees have access in a unionized workplace is the right of seniority. In a unionized workplace, seniority can impact the employees’ wages, hours of work, vacation time, promotions, and access to promotions or preferred jobs among other benefits.

Seniority is one of the most important and far-reaching benefits which the trade union movement has been able to secure for its members through the collective bargaining process. An employee’s seniority status under the terms of a collective agreement provides employees with significant rights, such as relief from lay-off, right to recall to employment, vacations and vacation pay, promotions, preferred jobs, as well as pension rights, to name only a few.

An employee working in a non-unionized setting is not guaranteed the right of seniority unless the employee has expressly agreed to such a right (which is not common). Without such an express agreement, the employer has the right to operate its business in the manner it sees fit, without taking into consideration the length of an employee’s service. For example, a junior and less experienced employee can be promoted over a more senior and experienced employee, or a more senior employee can be laid off while a new hire is kept on.

  1. Fairness and Equality

Studies also establish, in comparison to their non-unionized counterparts, employees in unionized work settings:

  • experience less discrimination on the basis of their sex, race, or disability;
  • experience a significantly smaller wage gap between men and women;
  • experience a smaller pay differential between job categories; and
  • receive the same rate of pay within the same job classification.

In unionized work settings, management performance is improved due in response to challenges by the union. Resultantly, management in a unionized workplace tends to be less authoritarian in their day to day management of the employer’s operations.

Moreover, the majority of unions operate democratically by involving members in the local’s decision-making process, such as ratification of the terms of the collective agreement negotiated by the union, or deciding whether the union should take a specific member’s grievance to arbitration or not.

Also, the imposition of disciplinary measures tends to be more fair in a unionized setting in comparison to the non-unionized setting, due to the union’s ability to challenge the employer’s decision through the grievance process, as well as the developments in the labour law principles established through decades of arbitration decisions, such as concepts of progressive discipline and consideration of mitigating factors.

For all the reasons outlined above, unionized employees experience a higher degree of equality and fairness in the workplace in comparison to their non-unionized counterparts.

Summary

In summary, there are many benefits to organizing your workplace and being represented by a union, and the ones we have highlighted above are just a few.

DISCLAIMER: The content of this article, and this website generally, is not intended as legal advice and cannot be relied upon as legal advice.  To provide legal advice on your problem, a lawyer must first understand your specific situation.

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