Employers cannot threaten workers who unionize

Dear Working Wise: I live in a province where being a “union member” isn’t always popular, yet I recognize the value of having a union at a workplace.

Dear Working Wise:

I live in a province where being a “union member” isn’t always popular, yet I recognize the value of having a union at a workplace. Right now, there is no union at my worksite, but I and some of my co-workers are interested in joining one. What do we need to do to form or join a union? What can my supervisor do to me if they find out about my interest? Can I be demoted or fired if we’re not successful? Is there a difference between a private and public sector union? Signed, Wanting to be a union member

Dear Wanting:

Well, you are right. Union membership is not as common in Alberta as it is in other parts of Canada. Approximately 30 per cent of Canadian workers belong to unions, but only 22 per cent of Albertans are unionized.

There are two ways to start the process of unionizing your worksite. The most common is to work with an existing union operating in your sector to help organize your worksite.

You can also create a new union by getting employees together to draft a constitution, sign up members and elect officers. Either way, a union must be certified in order to have the right to negotiate a collective agreement with an employer on behalf of employees in that bargaining unit.

Certification involves a union submitting an application to the Alberta Labour Relations Board (Board) and satisfying several conditions, in order to have a representation vote among employees of that worksite.

So long as the majority of those who vote are in favour of being represented by that union, the Board certifies the union. In cases where an employer voluntarily recognizes a union, this certification process is bypassed.

All Canadian workers eligible for union representation are covered by labour relations legislation. The legislation protects employees against employers who threaten to take actions such as shutting down a worksite or reducing wages to penalize employees that join a union or participate in union activities.

Employees in Alberta who experience threats from their employer should contact the Board at 780-422-5926 in Edmonton or 403-297-4334 in Calgary.

In Alberta, the majority of workers fall under the provisions of the provincial Labour Relations Code, however certain groups, such as those working in the public service and in federally-regulated sectors, fall under other types of labour relations legislation.

One key difference in the legislation governing the public and private sector is that strikes and lockouts are prohibited for most public sector unions and employers, therefore they must use compulsory binding arbitration to resolve their collective bargaining disputes.

Additional information on the collective bargaining process and the rights and obligations of unions and employers can be found in A Guide to Alberta’s Labour Laws at www.alrb.gov.ab.ca/guidecontents.html.

Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca. Charles Strachey is a regional manager with Alberta Employment and Immigration. This column is provided for general information.

Just Posted

Fredericton police release scene of shooting spree, but ‘damage’ remains

FREDERICTON — Police have released the Fredericton apartment complex that was the… Continue reading

Police seek public’s help after East Coast lobster thieves strike again

SAINT-SIMON, N.B. — There has been another crustacean caper on the East… Continue reading

Court hearing on Humboldt Broncos fundraising a first under new Saskatchewan law

SASKATOON — A court hearing related to money raised following the Humboldt… Continue reading

Weed’s want ads longer, marijuana job searches up as industry grows: study

OTTAWA — The growth of Canada’s soon-to-be-legal recreational pot industry is starting… Continue reading

Google Generation’s push for more technology transforming health care: survey

TORONTO — Digitally savvy Canadians who make up the Google Generation are… Continue reading

WATCH: A horse was neglected by its owner. Now the horse is suing

ESTACADA, Ore. - Justice is an 8-year-old American quarter horse who used… Continue reading

Keep bribes quiet for 10 years, FIFA won’t punish you

LONDON — FIFA has officially eradicated corruption. All it took was pressing… Continue reading

Beyoncé honours ailing Aretha Franklin at Detroit concert

DETROIT — Queen Bey dedicated her performance with husband, Jay Z, to… Continue reading

‘Outlaw King’ to open Toronto film fest; ‘Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy’ to close

TORONTO — The world premiere of David Mackenzie’s “Outlaw King,” starring Chris… Continue reading

Male model convicted of murdering rival after online feud

LONDON — A British fashion model has been convicted of murdering a… Continue reading

Red Sox old-timer’s memorabilia going up for sale

BIDDEFORD, Maine — Some items belonging to one of the Boston Red… Continue reading

Rival Korea leaders to meet in Pyongyang in September

SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of — The rival Koreas announced Monday that North… Continue reading

Charlottesville anniversary: Peaceful protests, few arrests

WASHINGTON — Thousands of people wanting to send a message that racism… Continue reading

‘I believe music heals people’: 12-year-old records tribute for shooting victims

YARMOUTH, N.S. — Twelve-year-old Josh Cochrane of Yarmouth, N.S., watched the news… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month