How to apply for union certification

A union that wants to represent an employee or a group of employees can apply for certification under the Labour Relations Code (the Code).

An application for certification can be an application:

  • to represent a group of unrepresented employees (Section 18)
  • to change or expand an existing certification to include new employees (Section 142)
  • to represent a group of employees currently represented by another union (Section 19)

Can any organization apply for certification?

No. Only a trade union as defined in the Code can apply for certification. There are many organizations the Board has already recognized as a trade union under the Code.

If the Board hasn’t already recognized an organization as a trade union, the organization must show how it meets the definition of trade union in the Code. This organization does this when it applies for its first certification under the Code. 

What do I need to include in an application for certification?

File an application using a Board form found on the Forms page. Make sure the application is complete and correct, including contact information for the union and the employer. If the application isn't complete, it could be delayed because the Board won’t accept an application for filing until it is complete.

You need to describe the group of employees you want to represent. For example, is it all the employees of the employer? Is it only employees in a department? Is it employees in more than one location?

You must describe the proposed bargaining unit in a way that makes it clear for the Board to know who is covered by the application. 

A union must show that is has a certain level of employee support in order to successfully apply to be certified as the employees' exclusive bargaining agent. Employee support is usually shown through membership evidence. The level of employee support (threshold) a union needs depends on what type of certification it is applying for. Learn more about threshold

You must include copies of the membership evidence on which you are relying as part of the application. Learn more about membership evidence.

You must also include an alphabetical list of employees whose cards the union is relying on, along with their email addresses, in an Excel document. 

The union may have to provide the original membership cards for the Board to inspect, so keep them in a safe place and easily available. 

Union membership evidence is confidential. The union must not send a copy of the application or supporting membership evidence to the employer. The Board will tell the employer once the application is accepted for filing. The Board will keep membership evidence confidential. 

If the organization making the application hasn't been formally recognized by the Board as a trade union, you must include information that shows how the union was founded.  

Two or more trade unions can apply to represent a single bargaining unit. The trade unions making a joint application are treated as if they are a single union.

A joint application must include a constitution. The constitution must govern the structure and relationship of the applicant unions. It must be approved by the Board during the certification process.

If the application relates to employees belonging to a craft, the certification provisions under the Code still apply. However, you should review the Board’s requirements for bargaining unit descriptions set out in CLRA, BCLRB No. B381/95 (37 KB).

The bargaining unit refers to the group of employees represented by a union, or the employees the union is proposing to represent when it applies for certification.

Only an employee can be included in a bargaining unit and have access to collective bargaining.

To be certified to represent employees under the Labour Relations Code, an organization must meet the definition of "trade union."


This page was last updated: 2024-01-29

Disclaimer: The information on this website is provided for general purposes only and is not legal advice. This information is subject to the Labour Relations Code, the Labour Relations Board Rules, the Labour Relations Regulation and the published decisions of the Board

The Labour Relations Board acknowledges the territories of the many diverse Indigenous Peoples in the geographic area we serve. With gratitude and respect, we acknowledge that the Board’s office is located on the unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səlil̓wətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.