Rights & Protection

Rights & Protection

Laws Governing Employee Rights


Canada IconCanada

Charter of Rights and Freedoms

In 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that freedom of association, as guaranteed by s. 2(d) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, protects the right of employees to associate for the purpose of advancing workplace goals through a process of collective bargaining. This landmark decision known as the B.C Health Services case not only reaffirms the right of workers to form a union, but also guarantees their right to engage in collective bargaining. The right to join a union and bargain collectively is a constitutional right in Canada enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which supersedes all other federal and or provincial legislation.

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Canada Labour Code and the Industrial Relations Board

The Canada Labour Code governs all aspects of the federally regulated sector in labour relations, collective bargaining and the development of good industrial relations.

The Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) is an independent quasi-judicial tribunal responsible for the interpretation of the Canada Labour Code. The Board oversees industrial relations in the federally regulated sector which covers approximately 800,000 employees employed by the federal government, federal crown corporations or federally regulated industries. Federally regulated industries include: interprovincial transportation (air, land and water), broadcasting, banking, longshoring and grain handling, and to private sector employees in Nunavut, the Yukon, and the Northwest Territories.

Canadian Industrial Relations Board

Canada Labour Code

Provincial Labour Relations Laws and Boards

Each province has its own set of labour laws which are overseen by each province’s labour relations board. Provincial labour relations boards are independent, administrative tribunals mandated to mediate and adjudicate employment and labour relations matters related to unionized workplaces in both the public and private sectors, except for federally regulated industries (e.g. air, telecom, transport).

Provincial labour relation laws govern all aspects of collective bargaining amongst provincially-regulated employers and employees. This includes the certification of bargaining units, the process of collective bargaining, and the settlement and regulation of disputes in both the public and private sectors.

Links

British Columbia Labour Relations Board

British Columbia Labour Relations Code

Alberta Labour Relations Board

Alberta Labour Relations Code

Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board

Saskatchewan Trade Union Act

Manitoba Labour Board

Manitoba Labour Relations Act

Ontario Labour Relations Board

Ontario Labour Relations Act

Quebec Labour Relations Commission

Quebec Labour Relations Act

Nova Scotia Labour Relation Board

Nova Scotia Trade Union Act

Newfoundland Labour Relations Board

Newfoundland Labour Relations Act

New Brunswick Labour and Employment Board

New Brunswick Industrial Relations Act

Prince Edward Island Labour Relations Board

Prince Edward Island Labour Act

Employees Rights

Employees Can:

  • Form, or attempt to form, a union at your place of employment, or to take concerted activity regarding the terms and conditions of employment.
  • Discuss the union during non-working time (breaks and lunch hours) at your work area.
    • If employees are allowed casual conversations (e.g., church, children, sports, etc.) during work hours, then they can also talk about the union.
  • Post literature during non-working time relating to union meetings and information on bulletin boards designated for employee use.
  • Distribute union literature during non-working time in non-work areas (e.g., break rooms, cafeteria, parking lots, etc.).
  • Attend meetings to discuss forming a union.
  • Distribute and sign union authorization cards during non-working time.

Restrictions on the Employers

Employers Cannot:

  • Discriminate against union supporters by discharging, demoting, denying promotion, changing shifts or jobs, withdrawing benefits or cutting wages.
  • Threaten employees with plant closing or any of the above adverse job actions as a result of their union support, or create a threatening work atmosphere through the use of guards or by instituting surveillance or searches in order to discourage union activity.
  • Favor employees who do not support the union over those who do in promotions, job assignments, wages, hours, enforcement of rules, or any other working conditions.
  • Shut down work or take away benefits and/or privileges that employees already enjoy in order to discourage union activity.
  • Intimidate employees from supporting the union.
  • Interrogate employees about their concerns regarding wages, benefits, and other conditions of employment which might lead to the employees’ support of the union.
  • Refuse to bargain unless ordered or insinuate that bargaining would begin from scratch.
  • Force employees to wear anti-union buttons or apparel.
  • Grant or promising wage or benefit increases with the intention of reducing support for a union
  • Make libelous statements about the union or its suporters.
  • Make misrepresentations concerning the union organizing campaign.
  • Impose any broad rules outlawing any pro-union conversation or distribution of union literature.
  • Spy on employees by means of eavesdropping, taping, filming, photographing, phone tapping, or tracking attendance at union functions.

United States IconUnited States

Private Sector

Legislation/Acts by Congress

  • The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and related laws protect employees’ rights to form unions in most private sector businesses, such as hotels, hospitals, manufacturing, construction, and other industries.
  • The Railway Act protects employees of rail and air carriers’ rights to form unions.

Agencies that oversee and enforce these pieces of legislation

  • National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) created by the National Labor Relations Act
  • National Mediation Board (NMB) created by the Railway Act

Federal Sector

Federal Law

  • The Federal Services Labor Management Relations Act protects Federal Government Employees’ rights to form unions

Agencies that oversee and enforce legislation

  • Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) created by the Federal Services Labor Management Relations Act
  • A few federal entities, such as the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), do not fall under any law that governs employer and union relations, which means that the employer determines who can or cannot form or join a union.

Public Sector

Many states have enacted laws similar to those in the private and federal sectors that govern the rights and protections of employees of state, county, and municipal governments to form unions.

Employees Rights

Employees Can:

  • Form, or attempt to form, a union at your place of employment, or to take concerted activity regarding the terms and conditions of employment.
  • Discuss the union during non-working time (breaks and lunch hours) at your work area.
    • If employees are allowed casual conversations (e.g., church, children, sports, etc.) during work hours, then they can also talk about the union.
  • Post literature during non-working time relating to union meetings and information on bulletin boards designated for employee use.
  • Distribute union literature during non-working time in non-work areas (e.g., break rooms, cafeteria, parking lots, etc.).
  • Attend meetings to discuss forming a union.
  • Distribute and sign union authorization cards during non-working time.

Restrictions on the Employers

Employers Cannot:

  • Discriminate against union supporters by discharging, demoting, denying promotion, changing shifts or jobs, withdrawing benefits or cutting wages.
  • Threaten employees with plant closing or any of the above adverse job actions as a result of their union support, or create a threatening work atmosphere through the use of guards or by instituting surveillance or searches in order to discourage union activity.
  • Favor employees who do not support the union over those who do in promotions, job assignments, wages, hours, enforcement of rules, or any other working conditions.
  • Shut down work or take away benefits and/or privileges that employees already enjoy in order to discourage union activity.
  • Intimidate employees from supporting the union.
  • Interrogate employees about their concerns regarding wages, benefits, and other conditions of employment which might lead to the employees’ support of the union.
  • Refuse to bargain unless ordered or insinuate that bargaining would begin from scratch.
  • Force employees to wear anti-union buttons or apparel.
  • Grant or promising wage or benefit increases with the intention of reducing support for a union
  • Make libelous statements about the union or its suporters.
  • Make misrepresentations concerning the union organizing campaign.
  • Impose any broad rules outlawing any pro-union conversation or distribution of union literature.
  • Spy on employees by means of eavesdropping, taping, filming, photographing, phone tapping, or tracking attendance at union functions.

Laws Governing the Formation of a Union

If you have questions regarding any of the terms used, visit our Unions Q&A section for explanations and definitions. In addition, you can contact IFPTE at organizing@ifpte.org.

What laws and processes apply in Canada? Canada Icon

Legal Process for Forming a Union:

In Canada, each of the ten provinces has different rules regarding union certification. In addition, workers employed in federally regulated industries follow the Canada Labour Code which sets out distinct labour relations rules regardless of the province in which the business operates.

Two systems exist in Canada for obtaining union certification: Card Check Certification and the Mandatory Secret Ballot Vote Certification. Under both systems, the union must provide evidence through signed membership cards to prove that there is sufficient support for unionization in the workplace.

Card Check Certification applies to the following jurisdictions:

  • Federally regulated industries (air, telecom, transport, etc.)
  • Manitoba
  • Quebec
  • New Brunswick
  • Prince Edward Island

Under Card Check Certification, if a majority of the employees within the bargaining unit sign membership cards then the union will legally be recognized. The threshold to reach a majority varies among the jurisdictions. Manitoba requires 65% signed cards, while New Brunswick calls for 60%. In the case of Quebec, Prince Edward Island and the federal sector, a simple majority of 50%+1 is sufficient for automatic certification. In addition, in the event that these card percentages are not met, there is a lower threshold that can be achieved to trigger a secret ballot vote instead.

Mandatory Secret Ballot Vote Certification jurisdictions:

  • British Columbia
  • Alberta
  • Saskatchewan
  • Ontario
  • Nova Scotia
  • Newfoundland

Under this system, employees supporting union representation must sign membership cards to trigger a Labour Board supervised secret ballot vote. Each province sets its own minimum percentage in order for the vote to take place. The results of the vote must demonstrate that 50% +1 has voted in favour of union representation.

Application Thresholds for Certifications in Canada:

Federal jurisdiction  |  Card Check  |  50% +1, Vote requires 35% cards
British Columbia  |  Secret Ballot  |  45% cards required to trigger vote
Alberta  |  Secret Ballot Vote  |  40% cards required to trigger vote
Saskatchewan  |  Secret Ballot  |  45% cards required to trigger vote
Manitoba   |  Card Check  |   65%, Vote requires 40% cards
Ontario  |  Secret Ballot  |  40% cards required to trigger vote
Quebec  |  Card Check  |   50% +1, Vote requires 35% cards
New Brunswick  |  Card Check  |  60% +1, Vote requires 40% cards
Nova Scotia  |  Secret Ballot  |  40% cards required to trigger vote
Prince Edward Island  |  Card Check  |   50% +1, vote % not specified
Newfoundland-and-Labrador  |  Secret Ballot  |  40% cards required to trigger vote

What laws and processes apply in the U.S.? United State Icon

What’s the legal process to form a union?

Private Sector

In order to form a union at your place of employment, you and your colleagues will need to democratically decide by secret ballot. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the National Mediation Board (NMB) are the two federal agencies responsible for conducting a union vote and certifying the results within the private sector. To see what sectors these agencies cover, see the following questions and answers below.

To request a union vote, the NLRB requires 30% or more of the employees in a potential bargaining unit to demonstrate their interest in forming a union by signing union authorization cards (i.e., petition), while the NMB requires 50% or more signatures from the employees. IFPTE recommends that at least 60% of your colleagues sign such cards before filing with the NLRB or NMB to ensure there is a majority of interest among your colleagues.

After you file with the NLRB or NMB, they will schedule and oversee a secret ballot election for you and your colleagues to vote to form a union. A majority of those voting must cast ballots in favor of forming a union in order for the union to be recognized and certified.

In rare cases, an employer will agree to voluntarily recognize a union without an election if there are sufficient cards to show that the union enjoys majority support within the unit. See “Card Check,” below.

Federal Sector

For federal employees interested in forming a union, you and your colleagues will also need to democratically decide by secret ballot. The difference is the federal agency responsible for conducting a union vote and certifying the results, which is the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA).

Similar to the NLRB, the FLRA requires that 30% or more of the employees in a potential bargaining unit to demonstrate their interest in forming a union by signing union authorization cards for them to conduct a union vote.. As with the private sector, IFPTE recommends that at least 60% of your colleagues sign such cards before filing with the FLRA to ensure there is a majority of interest among your colleagues.

Once you file with the FLRA, they will schedule and oversee a secret ballot election for you and your colleagues to vote to form a union or not. If a majority of those voting cast ballots in favor of forming a union, then you have your union.

Public Sector

Each State determines its own procedure for whether and how public employees may form a union. In states where public employees have collective bargaining rights, many state labor laws are modeled upon NLRB processes.

What is the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)?

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is the U.S. government agency responsible for overseeing labor-management relations in the private sector, with the exception of the railroad and airline industries.

What is the National Mediation Board (NMB)?

The National Mediation Board (NMB) is a U.S. government agency responsible for overseeing labor-management relations in the railroad and airline private sector industries.

What is the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA)?

The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) is a U.S. government agency responsible for overseeing labor-management relations in the Federal sector.

What is Card Check/Voluntary Recognition?

In the private sector, this is a process by which the employees approach their employer to see if it will voluntarily recognize their union without having to go through the elections process at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) or National Mediation Board (NMB). If the employer agrees to this process, both the employees and employer agree to a third party (e.g., arbitrator) to review the union authorization cards to determine if there is majority support. If it is determined that over 50% of the employees in the bargaining unit have signed union authorization cards, then the employer will recognize the union and certification can be filed with the NLRB or NMB.

Under current law within the United States, the employer decides whether to accept or reject this method, not the employees. Unlike in other modern industrial nations, in the United States very few private employers accept this method.

IFPTE at a Glance

Members

IFPTE represents over 80,000 women and men in professional, technical, administrative and associated occupations in the United States and Canada.

Occupations

Our members work for federal, public and private employers, and work in various occupations such as auditors, drafters/designers, engineers, judges, lawyers, researchers, scientists, and technicians to name a few.

Executive Board

The Executive Council is made up of Officers and Area Vice-Presidents. Area Vice-Presidents are elected by members within their specific area, and are responsible for governing IFPTE between conventions. A list of the Area Vice-Presidents can be found on our Officers page.

Executive Officers

The Executive Officers run the day to day operations of IFPTE and they are elected at the IFPTE Convention, which are held every three years.