Unionization FAQs - Federal Sectors

Frequently Asked Questions about unionization in the federally regulated sectors.

What is the process of forming a union?

A minimum of 40% of the employees must sign union membership cards and contribute $5. An application is then submitted to the Canada Industrial Relations Board (“The Labour Board”). Within 12 days, the Labour Board holds a secret ballot vote at your workplace. In order for the union to be successful, 50% plus one of the employees who cast a ballot must vote in favour of the union.

Alternatively, if 50% plus one of all employees sign membership cards and pay the $5 fee, an application is submitted to the Canada Industrial Relations Board and the union is automatically certified.

The $5 contribution is a government requirement, not a CUPE fee, and is deposited in your union local’s bank account upon ratification. What is a Collective Agreement?

A collective agreement is a contract between the union and employer that tells workers and the employer what their rights and responsibilities are. The Collective Agreement outlines things such as: wages, benefits, hours of work, vacation and holidays, seniority, how to handle disagreements, health and wellness accommodations, etc. It ensures that everyone receives equal treatment by the employer and an accountability process if the agreement is violated. You will have the opportunity to democratically elect your co-workers to serve on a committee to bargain your Collective Agreement, and you will vote on its ratification. How is my privacy protected?

The confidentiality of card signer information is protected by law.

If a vote is held, a Labour Board Officer holds the vote and this officer ensures that there is no interference by the employer or the union to intimidate or influence the vote. The voting process is confidential and is similar to Provincial and Federal elections. No one will ever know how you voted and at no time during the process will your employer know whether or not you have signed a membership card. Can my boss interrogate me, discipline me or even fire me because of my support for the union?

No. Your right to join a union and to be represented by a union is protected by law. Section 8 (1) of the Canada Labour Code clearly states, “Every employee is free to join the trade union of their choice and to participate in its lawful activities”. It is against the law for an employer to fire employees because they have chosen to engage in union activity or to discriminate against them in any other way. If you experience any intimidation or discipline by your boss as a consequence of your support for the union, CUPE’s skilled legal team will protect you. My boss says that CUPE is an outsider that is unfamiliar with our workplace, is that true?

Several workers who are tired of being treated unfairly and feeling disrespected at work reached out to CUPE to help improve your workplace. CUPE is very familiar with the on-goings at your workplace.

The union is not an outsider, but comprised of workers wanting a stronger voice and greater say over their working conditions. You and your co-workers are the union and CUPE is there to find and resource a way to deal with issues you have identified in your workplace. My boss told me unions cannot improve my working conditions, is that true?

A union will certainly improve your working conditions by bargaining for things such as: predictable schedules, protection from being fired without reason, fair and transparent workplace policies that apply to everyone and enhanced wages and benefits. In addition, some of the minimum benefits you now receive from your employer are a result of people like you working together through unions over the last 100 years. Benefits such as the weekend, right to pensions, vacations, minimum wage laws, human rights legislation and health and safety regulations.