FAQ - Certification


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Frequently Asked Questions


Certification - Unionizing a Workplace

A group of employees may decide they wish to be represented by a union. They may either form their own trade union or join an existing union. This union then files a certification application with the Labour Relations Board. If the application meets the requirements of the Labour Relations Code, the Labour Relations Board holds an employee vote. If a majority of employees choose to be represented by that union, the Labour Relations Board certifies that union. This means the union then has the right to negotiate a collective agreement with the employer. This agreement regulates the wages and working conditions of the employees. More information about certification applications can be found in Information Bulletin #8.


Q: When can a certification application be filed?

A: The Labour Relations Code sets out four situations in which time limits affect a certification application. These include filing a union’s constitutional documents, previous applications, strikes and lockouts, and existing collective bargaining relationships. A new union must file its constitutional documents with the Board before it can apply for certification.  A union can only apply once every 90 days for certification for the same group, unless the Board consents.  If the employees are on strike or locked out, the union must obtain the Board's consent to file a certification application.  If the employees already have a union and a collective agreement, the new union can only apply during an "open period."   These situations are explained more fully in Information Bulletin #8.


Q: What happens when a certification application is filed?

A: When a union files a certification application, a Board officer conducts an impartial investigation. The officer speaks to the employer and the union. The officer may also speak to individual employees. The officer requires the union and the employer to produce records relating to the application, such as employee and membership lists. The officer then writes a report outlining whether or not the application meets the Code’s requirements for certification. This report is presented to the parties (who may object to some of all of its findings) and a panel of Board members. The panel conducts a hearing and decides whether or not the application meets the requirements of the Code. If so, the panel orders an employee vote. If a majority of the employee’s voting vote in favour of the union, the union is certified.


Q: Does an employer have a say in whether employees unionize?

A: The Labour Relations Code prohibits an employer from participating or interfering with the formation or administration of a trade union. It is entirely the decision of employees whether or not they wish to be represented by a trade union.


Q: Can an employer talk to employees about the application?

A: The Labour Relations Code prohibits employers from participating in or interfering with the formation or administration of a trade union or the representation of employees by a trade union. Employers may express their views on a certification application with employees so long as the employer does not use coercion, intimidation, threats, promises or undue influence. Employers may wish to refer to Section 148 of the Code.


Q: What happens if a union is certified at my company?

A: If the certification application is successful, the Board issues a formal "certificate" which confirms that the union is the exclusive agent for every employee in the bargaining unit. This means the union represents every member of the bargaining unit, regardless of whether or not they are a member of the union. Usually, the union and the employer then commence bargaining for a collective agreement. A collective agreement is a written contract that outlines the wages, benefits, and working conditions of employees.

An employer is prohibited from altering the rates of pay or any term or condition of employment or any right or privilege of any employee (other than in accordance with an established custom or practice of the employer) from the date of the application until 30 days after certification is granted. If the union serves notice to bargain within those 30 days, the employer may not alter working conditions for a further 60 days.


Q: How many people do you need to start a union?

A: Information Bulletin 7 explains the Board’s policy on the trade union filings and Bulletin 8 specifies the requirements for certification.



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