Brief Description of Employees’ and Employers’ Associations
Labour law in Canada is founded on the Wagner Model, originating in the United States in 1935, whereby strikes and lockouts are prohibited during the term of a collective agreement and, in return, management is required to negotiate with a recognised bargaining agent, typically a trade union. This model is intended to ensure industrial stability. There is a single bargaining agent for each bargaining unit. Most bargaining units cover all non-management employees, regardless of trade, and are limited to a single employer at a single location or within a specified geographical area. In other words, Canada does not have multi-union, multi-employer bargaining units; however, some sectors (notably in the construction industry and sometimes in health care) feature industry-wide bargaining.
Rights and Importance of Trade Unions
Once a union acquires bargaining rights it becomes the legally recognised exclusive agent of all employees in the bargaining unit that is determined to be appropriate for collective bargaining. This exclusive representative entitlement for a certified union applies to all employees whether or not an employee supported the union during an organising campaign and even holds true in situations when an employee actively opposed the union. The union’s legal status as agent is not affected by whether or not an employee chooses to be a member of the union. The only relevant consideration, once the union has acquired bargaining rights, is whether or not the employee falls within the bargaining unit for which the union has been recognised or certified as the bargaining agent. In most jurisdictions, all employees in the bargaining unit are required to pay union dues, regardless of their membership in the union. The union has a duty to fairly represent all employees in the unit for which it holds bargaining rights.
Other Types of Employee Representative Bodies
Some non-unionised workplaces may establish a joint management-employee board or committee to address workplace issues. This type of process is not mandated by law and is entirely voluntary for employers. Joint management-employee boards or committees are generally implemented by employers operating in industries that are largely unionised, in order to provide employees with some form of representation other than the representation of a trade union. Each organisation that elects to establish such a committee or board may determine its own rules and procedures, including the tasks and obligations of representatives on the committee or board; how many employee representatives will be on the committee; and how those representatives will be appointed or elected.
Some employers may be required under provincial health and safety legislation to establish a joint health and safety committee (JHSC). The mandate of a JHSC is to improve health and safety conditions in the workplace by raising awareness of health and safety issues, identifying safety risks in the workplace and recommending solutions to the employer.