Questions and Answers Regarding the Certification/Decertification
THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THIS DOCUMENT IS CURRENTLY UNDER REVIEW AND
SHOULD NOT BE RELIED ON EXCEPT WITH CAUTION. Please contact the Board’s
information officer at 604-660-1304 or firstname.lastname@example.org
for more information about the review process.
This Guide answers
questions which are often raised by employees with respect to
applications for certification.
The Labour Relations
Code states that every employee is free to be a member of a
trade union and to participate in its lawful activities. The
Code prohibits threats or
intimidation which interfere with an employee's free choice
about joining or not joining a trade union. Suspensions,
dismissals or other discipline are often found to be violations of
Under the Labour
Relations Code, employees are free to choose whether or not to
become members of a trade union, to participate in its lawful
activities, and to seek union certification of their workplace.
This pamphlet, produced by the Labour Relations Board, is designed
to answer questions that employees often ask about the union
The Labour Relations
Board is a neutral, independent tribunal that decides matters
involving unions, employers and employees under the
Labour Relations Code. One such matter the Board
decides is whether to certify a union.
When the Board
certifies a union, it recognizes that union as the
representative or bargaining agent of a group of employees.
Once the union is certified, the employer is required to bargain
terms of employment with the union, rather than with individual
The group of employees
which the union is certified to represent is called the
bargaining unit. For example, a union can be certified to
represent "all employees of ABC Company" or "all employees of ABC
Company, except sales staff". Once certified, the union is
required to represent all of the employees in the bargaining unit,
whether or not they are members of the union.
4. What starts the union certification
The process can begin in
various ways. Often, it begins with employees at a
non-unionized workplace contacting a union and asking it to help the
employees "organize" (unionize) their workplace. Sometimes it
is the union which initiates contact.
The union may hold
information meetings, distribute leaflets or otherwise communicate
with the employees to try to persuade the majority of employees to
sign union membership cards. The union and its representatives
are not allowed to organize at an employer's place of business
during working hours without the consent of the employer. This
prohibition does not apply when the employees are on lunch or other
unpaid work breaks.
5. What does it mean to sign a union
Signing a membership
card means that you join the union and understand that the union is
entitled to rely on your signed membership card as evidence of your
desire to have the union certified to represent you and your
To be counted as support for a union's application for
certification, a membership card must be signed and dated before
midnight of the day that the union files its application with the
6. How many signed cards
does the union need to be certified?
Will a secret-ballot vote be held?
The Labour Relations
Code provides that if the union applies for certification with
signed membership cards from 45% or more of the employees in the
proposed bargaining unit, a secret ballot vote will be held within
5 business days. The Union will be certified if the majority of the
votes cast are in favour of union certification.
union applies for certification with membership cards from less than
45% of the employees, the application will be dismissed.
7. What about managers?
Managers are not included
in bargaining units and are therefore not counted when determining
the total number of employees in the proposed bargaining unit. For
the purposes of the Code, "managers" are generally people who have
the power to hire,
fire and discipline employees.
8. Are there special rules about signing a
The membership card must
be signed and dated at the time you sign the card, and the date
should be clear. For example, it is clearer to write the name
of the month (e.g., April 3, 1999) rather than the number of the month
(e.g., 04/03/99). To be effective, cards must be signed and
dated no more than 6 months before the date of the union's
application for certification. If the union has a union-local
number, that union-local number must be filled in on the membership
card before or at the time of signing. Cards must be
personally signed -- you cannot have another person sign your card
for you. Note that there are specific rules for
membership evidence in the construction industry.
Can I be forced to sign or not sign a membership card?
No. The Labour
Relations Code does not allow anyone to force a person to join
or not join a trade union. This applies to any person,
including employers, unions and employees.
10. What if I sign a membership card but then
change my mind?
You have until the end of
the day on which the union submits its application for certification
to revoke (cancel) your membership card. To revoke a
membership card, you must deliver a signed, written letter of
revocation to both the union and the Board that says you want
to revoke or cancel your membership in the union. The
letter of revocation must be dated and must show the proper name of
the union including the union local’s number. Also include the
name of your employer. If you mail, courier or hand-deliver a
revocation letter, it must be received before offices close on the
day in question. If you fax the revocation letter (the Board's
fax number is (604) 660-1892), it must be received by the fax
machine before midnight of that day.
Can I ask my employer questions about certification?
You may, but your
employer may not be free to answer all of your questions. The
decision as to whether a group of employees wish to be represented
by a union is entirely the decision of those employees.
Therefore, your employer or manager may not be free to answer some
or all of your questions. If you do have questions about your
rights, or about the Code, you may wish to contact the Board's
Information Officer at (604) 660-1304 or email@example.com
12. Can I lose my job for supporting or not supporting the
No. An employer cannot
dismiss or discipline an employee for supporting a union's efforts
to organize the workplace, and a union cannot have an employee
dismissed for refusing to support the union's organizing efforts.
Can my working conditions change during the union's
No. While an
application for certification is pending, the Code imposes a
"freeze" during which employers must continue "business as usual"
and cannot change working conditions without the Board's written
permission. If the drive results in the
union being certified, the Code imposes a
further 12-month "freeze" during which working conditions cannot be
altered unless a collective agreement is negotiated.
14. What does the union do with the signed membership cards?
When it has collected
enough signed membership cards, the union submits copies of the
cards to the Board together with an Application for Certification
Will my employer find out whether I signed a membership card?
Employers are not
entitled to know who did or did not sign a card. The
Board keeps the names of the employees who sign membership cards and
the cards themselves strictly confidential.
16. What does the Board do when it receives an application for
Upon receiving an
application for certification, the Board sends the employer a
notice. At the same time, the Board sets a pre-vote hearing, the date
and time of which are listed on the notice which the employer must post in the
Board Returning Officer confidentially examines the union’s membership cards and the
employer's payroll information to determine the number of employees
in the bargaining unit and what percentage has signed membership
cards. The Returning Officer will also arrange to conduct a secret
ballot certification vote.
17. The Returning Officer has determined that a pre-vote hearing is necessary.
What will happen at the pre-vote hearing?
Vice-Chair of the Board will conduct the hearing and may address
any issues related to the application. The Vice-Chair may set
a further expedited adjudicative process if necessary, including an
in-person hearing, to address those issues.
The Board will proceed with the hearing despite the absence of any
affected person who has been given notice of the hearing.
The Board also gives notice of the application to other unions that,
according to the Board's records, have a collective bargaining relationship
with your employer.
18. The vote has been ordered, but the Vice-Chair has set a further
hearing. What will happen at that hearing?
will set a further adjudicative process to address issues such as
whether the applicant union is a trade union within the meaning of the Code
and whether the group of employees applied for is a unit appropriate for
collective bargaining. The Vice-Chair will also use that hearing to
resolve any outstanding questions of threshold and to resolve challenged ballots.
The ballots cast at the representation vote will not be counted until all of these
issues are resolved.
19. What happens after certification?
If the application for certification is successful, the Board will
issue a formal certification order, which confirms that the union is
the representative for every employee in the bargaining unit,
whether or not they are members of the union. Either the union
or the employer may give the other notice to commence collective
bargaining and the union and employer are then required to bargain
in good faith with the objective of achieving a collective
agreement. A collective agreement is a written contract
setting out wages, benefits and other conditions of employment.
For 12 months after certification, or until a collective agreement
is achieved (whichever is sooner), the employer may not alter wages
or conditions of work without the approval of the Board.
20. What if a group of employees wants to change unions?
The Labour Relations
Code gives employees the right to change unions during specific
time periods. This is commonly referred to as a "raid".
A union seeking to displace the existing union must present the
Board with evidence (membership cards) to show that it has majority
support among the employees in the bargaining unit. A
secret-ballot vote is normally ordered. Normally, the collective
agreement remains in effect regardless of which union wins the vote.
What if the employees no longer want to be unionized?
A group of employees which no longer wishes to be represented by a
union can apply to decertify the union. Decertification means
the union's bargaining rights and any collective agreement are
applications are available by phoning or writing the Board or on the
Board's web site. A decertification application cannot
be filed until at least 10 months after the date of certification.
If at least 45% of the employees in the bargaining unit sign forms
in support of decertification, a secret-ballot vote will be held.
Support may be revocable (cancelled). For the decertification
application to be successful, the majority of votes cast must be in
favour of decertification.
Employers cannot initiate
or assist employees with "raid" or decertification applications.
The Board can refuse to count a vote if there is found to be an
unfair labour practice or improper interference by the employer or
Employees seeking more
information about the process can contact the Board's Information
How can I get more information?
You can contact the
Board's Information Officer at (604) 660-1304 or
firstname.lastname@example.org with respect to any
questions about the Labour Relations Code, Labour Relations
Board procedures, your membership card, conduct of Board hearings,
The Board's web site
also features the Code, as well as a plain-English Guide to the
Code, and Board information on a variety of topics. The web
site address is www.lrb.bc.ca
This pamphlet is
prepared by the Labour Relations Board. It is not a legal
document and does not contain legal advice. It is subject to
the law governing the union certification process, which is found in
the Labour Relations Code
and Regulation, the
Labour Relations Board Rules,
and the published decisions of the Labour Relations Board.