6 Tips for Employers When Workforce Wants to Form a Labour Union

By Diego Ames - 2016-07-18

According to the Government of Canada, approximately one-third of all Canadian workers are covered by a labour union. Whether it's in the public or private sector, there is a growing movement, or at least rising support, for more workforces to unionize in the face of globalization, outsourcing and tepid wage growth.

The intentions may be good at first, but for company owners this would hurt their business models. With constant threats of strikes, wages above the market rate and many other benefits that unions may attempt to squeeze out of enterprises, employers could have a lot on their hands, particularly if they can't afford the demands being made by the labour union.

Whatever the case, an employer should know one thing: they can never interfere in their workers forming a union. If staff members are interested in establishing a labour union then that's their prerogative. Even if it's expensive to operate a business right now, you'll need to eventually adapt.

Here are six tips for employers when the workforce wants to form a labour union:

You Can't Threaten Dismissal

Whether you have one employee or 10 employees interested in unionizing, you cannot threaten to dismiss your staff. Moreover, you can't threaten to fire someone if they vote in favour of forming a labour union. If you do then you will likely face a massive lawsuit or a visit from a government bureaucrat. You will need to let the union alone. You can read more about this ruling in the Canadian Labour Congress news article.

An Inquisition is Prohibited

Are you interested in what's going on behind the scenes during your workforce's off time? If your curiosity is weighing you down then you may be mulling over asking some staffers about what's going on. Unfortunately, you are not permitted to do this. You are not allowed to ask your workers about what is unfolding within your own business.

Bribes Won't be Allowed

You are calculating your corporate finances and you're crunching the potential numbers of a unionized workforce. You then get the idea of potentially offering some workers extra money or some additional benefits if they vote against starting a union. Once again, though, you are not permitted to do this. You can't offer bribes to your employees if they dismiss a union.

Employers Banned From Surveillance

Akin to asking questions from certain staff members, you are also not allowed to monitor the situation. This means you can't video record the meetings, you can't audio record the proceedings and you can't have a spy on in the inside. Simply put: you can't do any surveilling!

Contract Negotiations Will Begin

As soon as the labour union is formed, the contract negotiations will begin. Since the ultimate objective for a union is to garner a contract that favours the workers, you will be in tense discussions. A union contract will cover everything from wages to benefits to how human resources disputes are handled. Workers will mobilize to support the union's contract demands and will apply plenty of pressure on you to meet those demands. Consult with an employment lawyer such as Whitten and Lublin LLP for more information on how to handle contract negotiations and unionized employees.

An Anti-Union Campaign

You may think that your only hope is to start your own anti-union initiative. Unfortunately, this is completely prohibited by the government. You cannot hang anti-union posters around the office, you cannot hand out anti-union leaflets and you cannot have an anti-union campaign.

Indeed, there will always be one member of your staff who supports unionizing your entire workforce. They believe this is the just and equitable thing to do. Others may start to believe in his or her ideas, too. In any event, once you face the possibility of a labour union, you will need to consult with an attorney, you will need to understand how the process works and you will need to speak with an accountant right away to determine if you could even afford a labour union.

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