In the United States, there have been many union-friendly changes at the NLRB and a number of high profile strikes making headlines in 2023. Our neighbors to the north are also experiencing an uptick in union activity.
With pervasive inflation and an uncertain job market, many Canadians are emerging from the pandemic with bolder workforce demands. For example, in the spring of 2023, federal public servants made headlines with the largest strike in Canadian history. More recently, 3,000 Metro grocery store workers went on strike across Toronto, demanding higher wages. In mid-October 2023, GM narrowly averted significant disruptions to its operations by reaching a deal with Unifor, which represents 4,300 workers in Ontario.
Employers are rightly concerned about the potential for increased union activity, which can cause significant disruptions to operations. There are many things employers can do to stay union free, but it requires treading carefully because labour laws offer extensive protections to employees’ right to unionize. One wrong step by an employer can lead to penalties, fines, and potentially automatic certification.
Understanding how quickly the 3-step certification process unfolds
The certification process formalizes the collective bargaining relationship. And, understanding how this process works and appreciating how quickly it can move forward is essential for developing an effective union avoidance strategy.
Generally speaking, the process for certification in Ontario involves three steps:
1. The Organizing Drive
In this first step, to the extent possible, the union will try to keep the organizing drive a secret. During this period, the union will typically attempt to gauge employee interest by having union representatives approach them inside or outside the workplace, as well as online, talking to them about any issues they may have with the workplace, and sharing union information with them. Most union organizing campaigns involve signing up employees as union members and collecting union membership cards. One way that unions target employers for a union drive is by obtaining the names, contact information, and/or home addresses of the employees of a certain workforce, which they use to send them propaganda.
Employers are often unaware that this step is occurring even though a union organizing drive can last for months (or, in some cases, even longer). It is important for management to have reliable sources in the workforce to advise them when a union drive is happening. Timing is critical here.Continue Reading Best Practices for Employers Amidst Signs of a Labor Union Resurgence in Canada