Q. What is an application
A. It is an
application by a trade union for the exclusive right to represent employees in collective
bargaining. A certification order (if
granted) gives the union the right to negotiate for a collective agreement with the
employer, regulating wages and working conditions for the employees.
Q. Do I have any
say in whether my employees unionize?
A. Under the Labour Relations Code, the decision as to whether
or not a group of employees wish to be represented by a union is entirely the decision of those employees.
Q. What support
does a union need to file an application for certification with the Labour Relations
A. A union must
demonstrate membership support of 45% of the employees in an appropriate bargaining unit. The Board will then direct an Industrial Relations
Officer to conduct a secret ballot vote to be held within 10 days of the receipt of the
application of the Board. A union will be
certified if more than 50% of the valid votes cast favour union certification.
Q. How does a union
prove it has the required support?
A. Your payroll
records and the trade union's signed membership cards will be examined by an IRO from the
Ministry of Labour. This
examination is part of the Board's investigation. The
membership information is confidential to the Board.
Q. Now that I've
received this Notice (Notice of Certification Application), what do I have to do?
A. You are required
to post it in a conspicuous place in your business for 5 consecutive working days where
all employees will see it. You are also
required, under the Code, to co-operate with the Industrial Relations Officer in making
available to that Officer all records necessary to carry out the Board's investigation and
to conduct the vote. This includes
information necessary to establish your current employees, which may include employees
temporarily absent from work. Before a
hearing is held on the application the report of the Industrial Relations Officer will be
made available to the parties.
Q. Can I talk to my
employees about the application?
A. You have a right
to communicate. There are several sections of
the Code dealing with this question, including the following two:
Subject to the regulations, a person has the freedom to express his or her views on any
matter, including matters relating to an employer, a trade union or the representation of
employees by a trade union, provided that the person does not use intimidation or
and intimidation prohibited.
9. A person shall not use coercion or intimidation of
any kind that could reasonably have the effect of
compelling or inducing a person to become or to refrain from becoming a member of a
that section 8 is a new section of the Code, the scope of the right to
communicate will be determined in future Board cases.
Q. What kind of
things am I prohibited from doing?
Subject to Section 8 of the Code, you are prohibited from doing anything
which could interfere with the right of your employees to join a union or have union
representation. Among other things you are
in or interfering with the formation or administration of a union;
suspending, transferring, laying off, or otherwise disciplining an employee during a
certification drive, except for proper cause;
a penalty or promising a benefit in order to compel an employee to refrain from becoming,
or continuing to be a member of a union.
type of conduct is known as an "unfair labour practice". If you have any doubt about the permissibility of
any act, it is recommended that you obtain experienced labour relations advise.
Q. Can I continue
operating my business as usual while this is going on?
A. While an
application is pending you can not, without the permission of the Labour Relations Board,
change rates of pay or alter terms and conditions of employment. This restriction does not affect your right to
suspend, transfer, lay off or discharge an employee for proper cause; however, you may be
required by the Labour Relations Board to
establish that you had proper cause.
Q. The date for the
hearing is too soon. Why the rush?
A. The Labour
Relations Code contains strict time limits for certification applications. Experience has shown that this activity can have a
disruptive effect on the workplace. In
addition, the Code says the secret ballot vote must be held within 10 days of the
Q. Why do I have to
go to the expense and inconvenience of coming to Vancouver for a hearing? Why can't it be held here?
A. If you have no
objections to this application, you do not have to attend or be represented. If you do have objections it is very important
that you attend or be represented at the hearing. You
are entitled to be represented by legal counsel or by any individual authorized to speak
on your behalf.
The Board receives many certification applications each week. Centralizing the location of the hearings is
necessary to permit the Board to deal expeditiously with these matters. Also, the Board's resources cannot accommodate
hearings scheduled throughout the province and meet the time limits imposed by the Code.
Q. If I want advice
do I have to hire a lawyer? As a taxpayer
shouldn't I be able to get it from the Labour Relations Board?
A. The Labour
Relations Board is like a court, dealing with labour relations issues. Board staff are there to provide the public with
general information and assistance; however, they cannot act as your representative or
advisor. If you want legal or other advice
from someone who will represent your interests, you must arrange this at your own expense.
Q. What is the
purpose of the certification hearing? What
will it decide?
A. The hearing is
normally brief and very straightforward, intended to address only three issues:
the applicant a trade union as defined in the Labour
the group of employees applied for an appropriate unit for collective bargaining?
the applicant trade union have the necessary membership support for a vote to be held?
the answer to these questions is yes, the Board will order that the secret ballot
representation vote be counted. A majority of
valid votes cast determine whether or not the union is certified.
Q. What kind of
objections can I or my representative raise?
A. You can raise
objections on any of the three questions listed above.
Examples include arguments that the group of employees applied for does not
constitute an appropriate unit for collective bargaining, or that particular individuals
should be included in or excluded from the bargaining unit.
Q. What will happen
at the hearing?
A. The Vice-Chair
in charge of the hearing will first determine if there are any objections to the
application. If so, the Vice-Chair may direct
an officer of the Board to meet with you and the union representatives, to see if any
differences can be resolved through informal discussions.
Such informal discussions are usually held on the morning the hearing is scheduled. This process is often successful and the matter is
quickly resolved. If necessary, the
Vice-Chair will conduct a formal hearing to deal with any unresolved issues. You should be prepared to outline and support
your objections on that day. Decisions are
usually made promptly. The decision will be
either to dismiss the application, or order that the vote be counted.
Q. Why is the
informal process followed?
A. It almost always
saves resources and money, by reducing legal costs and other expenses for all parties
involved. It also provides an opportunity to
express general concerns. Nothing discussed
in the informal hearings can be used in the formal hearing which follows. In addition, on the many occasions when the
informal meeting leads to agreement between the employer and the union, a positive basis
has been established for the future collective bargaining relationship.
Q. What happens if
the union is certified?
A. Either you or
the union can serve notice to begin collective bargaining.
Within 10 days of the notice, "good faith" bargaining must begin. For at least 4 months, or until a collective
agreement is reached (whichever is sooner) you are again prohibited from changing wages or
terms or conditions of employment, without written permission from the Labour Relations
Q. What is
bargaining in good faith?
Bargaining in good faith means meeting with the other side, exchanging proposals
for the contents of collective agreement in making a sincere attempt to reach an
agreement. Failure to agree with the other
side's proposals does not, in itself, constitute bad faith. However, a deliberate strategy by either side to
prevent reaching an agreement is bad faith bargaining and contrary to the Labour Relations Code.