A union must show that it has a certain level of employee support to successfully apply to the Labour Relations Board (the Board) to be certified as the employees' exclusive bargaining agent. Usually, employees show support for the union by signing membership cards. When you sign a membership card, you are saying that:
- you want the union to represent you in collective bargaining and
- you support the union's application for certification.
If you sign a membership card, but then change your mind, you can revoke your union membership. To do so, you must:
- write and sign a statement that clearly says you want to revoke your union membership,
- include the name of the union and, if possible, the name of your employer
- include the date you made the statement
- send a copy of the statement to the Board, and
- send a copy of the statement to the union.
You can revoke your membership any time after you sign a card, but the Board can only consider it for the purpose of assessing whether the union has threshold support for its application if you submit it before midnight on the day the union applies for certification.
Once the union has collected enough membership cards, it may apply to the Board for certification. How much support the union needs depends on the group of employees it wants to represent. This is called threshold support.
The union must attach to its application for certification copies of all of the membership cards it is relying on to show employee support. When the Board gets the application, it reviews:
- the membership evidence and
- any revocations of membership it received,
to determine whether the union has threshold support. The Board may audit the union's membership evidence by contacting employees to confirm whether they signed a membership card.
Membership evidence is strictly confidential. The employer doesn't get to see the membership evidence or the application. Instead, the Board gives the employer notice that the application has been filed. The Board also gives the employer information about the application that it needs in order to be able to respond to it, like the description of the proposed unit. The employer gets an information sheet that helps them understand the certification process, and an employee package that must be distributed to employees in the proposed unit. The package includes an employee notice and a poster (582 KB) designed to help explain the certification process.
After an application for certification is filed, the employer must provide the Board with certain information, such as:
- a list of employee names
- employee contact information
- payroll records, if requested
Applications for certification are dealt with on an expedited basis. The Board will hold a hearing within five business days after it receives the union's application. This allows the employer and the union to address any issues arising out of the application.
If there are no objections raised at the certification hearing, the Board will decide the union's application. The way it does so depends on how much support the union has. If the union applied with the support of 55% or more of the employees in the proposed unit, then the Board may grant the application without any additional steps. If, however, the union applied with the support of between 45% and less than 55% of employees in the proposed unit, then the Board may hold a representation vote.
The Board holds representation votes electronically or in-person. In exceptional circumstances, it may hold a vote by mail. All employees in the proposed unit are entitled to vote, whether or not they are members of the union. If the majority of employees who cast a ballot vote in favour of certification, then the union will be certified as the exclusive bargaining agent for all of the employees in the bargaining unit.
If legal objections to the application are raised at the certification hearing, the Board may need to ask for more information before it can decide the union's application. If the Board believes a representation vote may be necessary, it can order that a provisional vote proceed despite the objections. If it does, the ballot box will be sealed until the objections can be resolved.
The types of objections the Board is typically asked to resolve as part of an application for certification include:
- whether the proposed unit is appropriate for collective bargaining
- which individuals are properly considered employees within the proposed unit
- issues arising out of the parties' conduct during the union's organizing drive. This might include allegations of unfair labour practices or challenges to the validity of the union's membership evidence.
The Board has the authority to audit the employer's payroll records if there is a dispute about who is or isn't an employee within the proposed unit.
The Board may ask the parties to provide written submissions to support their positions about the application and to address the results of the payroll or membership audits. It may also hold an oral hearing if it believes one is necessary to resolve the dispute.
If, after resolving the objections, the union's application is granted, the union becomes the certified exclusive bargaining agent for the employees.