Forming A Union
Your right to organize is protected by legislation. Understanding the law is a critical first step to securing that right.
When you and your co-workers decide it is time to join a union instead of trying to deal with your employer alone, you begin the process of organizing a union.
By joining together with your co-workers, you will have a greater ability to be more effective in getting your employer to improve wages, benefits and working conditions. These workplace improvements are achieved through the process of collective bargaining, which concludes with a legally-binding enforceable collective agreement, signed between the union and the employer.
Most unions also do many other things for their members to help each other. They help their members if they have a problem with health and safety on the job, advocate for them in Workers’ Compensation or Employment Insurance cases, and offer other programs for members and their families.
Legal Right To Join A Union
There are provincial and federal labour laws that:
- Ensure you have the right to join and organize a union;
- Protect you if your employer tries to stop you from joining a union;
- Give your union legal recognition; and
- Require your employer to negotiate with your union.
Your freedom to join a union is guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In most BC workplaces, this right is protected by British Columbia’s Labour Relations Code. If you work in federally regulated sectors such as communications and transportation, the Canada Labour Code applies. (These are similar laws so in the following material, we use “the Code” to refer to both.) The legal agency that administers these laws is called the Labour Relations Board (the Board).
If you are thinking about forming a union at your workplace, you should be aware of the basic steps of the legal process.
If you are organizing a union, it is essential to follow the correct process because employers often hire lawyers to challenge your legal right to join a union. An established union has the expertise and resources to make sure you avoid the legal obstacles your employer may try to put in your way and make sure your employer respects your right to join a union.