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Power to Enact Union Laws in Canada

Although the Parliament of Canada and provincial legislatures both have the power to enact labour laws, provincial governments are primarily responsible for labour legislation.

Federal authority is limited to the following industries:

  • industries of an extra-provincial or international character, such as railways, bus operations, trucking, pipelines, ferries, tunnels, bridges, canals as well as shipping and related services (e.g., longshoring);
  • air transport, aircraft and airports;
  • telecommunications, such as radio and television broadcasting as well as telephone and cable systems;
  • banks;
  • works that have been declared by Parliament to be for the general advantage of Canada or of two or more provinces, such as grain elevators or uranium mining and processing; and
  • certain federal Crown corporations.

Human Rights Provisions

Human rights provisions, fair employment practices, equal pay and anti-discrimination laws are all embodied in the federal and provincial human rights legislation as well as in labour legislation. Discrimination by race, religion, colour, creed, sex, age or other factors is prohibited. All jurisdictions require employers to pay men and women equally for the same work.

Right to Belong to a Union

Canadian employees are permitted to join unions for the purpose of bargaining collectively with their employers on issues concerning wage rates, fringe benefits and other working conditions.

Federal and provincial labour relations acts and labour codes contain regulations with respect to collective bargaining. Labour codes in all jurisdictions guarantee the right to representation by a trade union following a certification process outlined in legislation. The various jurisdictions administer their respective acts mainly through labour relations boards, in addition to the respective agencies which provide mediation and conciliation assistance to those parties involved in labour disputes.

Labour Relations Acts and Labour Relations Boards in Canada


Canada Labour Code
Trade Unions Act


British Columbia Labour Relations Board
Alberta Labour Relations Board
Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board
Manitoba Labour Board
Quebec Labour Board
PEI Labour and Industrial Relations
NB Industrial Relations
NS Labour Relations Board
Newfoundland Labour Relations Board

Starting a Union or Certifying a Union (Using Manitoba Rules)

The Union submits an Application for Certification to the Manitoba Labour Board. If, as at the date of application, 40% or more of employees support the Union, the Board shall order a vote in accordance with Section 48(2) of the Act. If 65% or more sign a union card the Board will automatically certify the bargaining unit.

If a vote is ordered and If more than 50% of the votes are in favour of having a union, The Board will certify the Union.

Employers' Rights - It is an unfair labour practice for Employers to attempt to interfere with the formation or selection of a Union. However, Employers or managers are permitted to communicate statements of fact or opinions reasonably held with respect to the Employers business. On the day of the vote, neither the Union nor the Employer may, at the workplace or polling place distribute printed material or engage in electioneering for the purposes of influencing the vote.

Once certified a Union becomes the exclusive bargaining agent for all of the employees in the bargaining unit whether they are members of the Union or not. The Employer cannot settle wages and working conditions directly with the employees. The employer is required to negotiate only with the Union which has been certified and no other one. After certification a Union can, by notice, compel an Employer to meet and bargain a collective agreement.

Getting Rid of or Decertifying a Union

All provinces have laws setting out provisions for employees to decertify unions. The Ontario government has made it mandatory that employers post information for its employees on how to decertify the union.

A copy of the Ontario government's brochure on union decertification follows:

The Ontario Government Brochure on Union Decertification (PDF) To read this document you must have the Acrobat reader. (You can get a free Acrobat reader by clicking on the icon below)
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Summary of the Decertification Procedure for Ontario:

  • Completing the DECERTIFICATION APPLICATION on the form provided by the OLRB. The LRA and the rules require that DECERTIFICATION APPLICATIONs be made on proper forms provided by the OLRB.
  • Providing only to the OLRB a list of names, in alphabetical order, of employees who no longer wish to be represented by the union. The information filed as part of the DECERTIFICATION APPLICATION must demonstrate that at least 40 per cent of the employees in the bargaining unit no longer wish to be represented by the union.
  • Providing only to the OLRB the signatures of these people and the date the signatures were obtained accompanied with the name of the employer and the name, address, telephone number and facsimile ("Fax") number, if any, of a contact person for the applicant.
  • Providing only to the OLRB a declaration in the required form verifying that the information relating to the employees who no longer want union representation is correct.
  • Providing the employer and the senior union official responsible for the bargaining unit with:
  • The completed DECERTIFICATION APPLICATION (excluding the information described in #2, #3 and
    #4 above)
  • Copies of Information Bulletins, forms and rules as specified by the rules.
  • Providing the OLRB with written verification that the DECERTIFICATION APPLICATION has been delivered as required.
  • Materials must be delivered to the employer and union by hand, priority courier or Fax. For a DECERTIFICATION APPLICATION not in the construction industry, the required material must be delivered to the employer and union before or at the same time as the DECERTIFICATION APPLICATION is filed with the OLRB. For a DECERTIFICATION APPLICATION in the construction industry, the required material must be delivered to the employer and union no later than 2 days after the DECERTIFICATION APPLICATION is filed with the OLRB. Delivery to the union should be made to the senior union official responsible for the bargaining unit.

    Seven copies of the DECERTIFICATION APPLICATION must be filed with the OLRB. The DECERTIFICATION APPLICATION, membership evidence and evidence of employee's wishes concerning representation may not be filed by Fax.

    The OLRB deals with a DECERTIFICATION APPLICATION in two stages:

    • First, the OLRB decides, based on the evidence filed with the DECERTIFICATION APPLICATION, whether it appears that at least 40 per cent of> employees in the bargaining unit no longer wish to be represented by the union. If so, the OLRB orders a secret ballot vote of all bargaining unit employees, normally held within five to seven days of the DECERTIFICATION APPLICATION (not including Saturdays, Sundays, or holidays).
    • If a vote is ordered and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast are in favour of decertification, the OLRB will declare that the union no longer represents the employees in the bargaining unit.

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