You have rights. Here’s how to use them.
You are protected by the Labour Code the moment a union organizing drive starts. The Code is your legal shield. It allows your union to lodge complaints on your behalf, even before a union vote and before you pay dues. When they receive a complaint, the Labour Board often assigns a third-party Special Investigation Officer to help the union and employer resolve the dispute informally. If the complaint cannot be resolved informally, it moves to a hearing.
Below are typical scenarios, pulled from the B.C. LRB’s website, that can be challenged with a union complaint:
Some red flags
The Code bans employers from firing, threatening to fire, suspending, transferring, laying off, refusing to hire or discriminating against workers for wanting to participate in, promote, support, or form a union.
If your manager or supervisor is singling you out and changing your working conditions shortly after you’ve started talking about unionizing, or around the time you signed a petition, talk to us about filing a complaint at email@example.com.
UFCW 1518 has won many workers their jobs back after they were unfairly fired. Read the success stories here.
Talk to a union organizer about filing a complaint. Your boss cannot offer you benefits, bonuses, pizza parties or any perks in exchange for voting against a union. Bribes like this are not only in violation of Section 6 of The Code, but they’re also a weak attempt to try and make you accept less than you are worth.
But who wants small perks in place of permanent protections anyways? Without a union, it’s harder to negotiate a good contract, and without a good written contract, you have no say over your pay, benefits, health & safety and more – the boss can go back on a promise or cut your pay and benefits whenever they like.
If you and your coworkers vote to join a union, your employer is legally obligated to negotiate a contract with you, which gives you the power to get what you deserve.
The Code protects you when your union files a complaint on your behalf or when you participate in other activities at the Labour Board, including:
- A Board proceeding
- Acting as a witness in a Board proceeding
- Making a disclosure that is required by a Board proceeding
What are employers not allowed to do in response to your participation in the above?
- Dismiss you
- Refuse to employ you
- Discriminate against you in terms of your working conditions
- Intimidate or coerce you
- Threaten to do any of these things
Unions have your back
While all workers do have rights, remember that until you are a union member and you have a contract, you are still vulnerable.
During an organizing drive, it’s critical that you only “talk union” and participate in union activities, such as petition signing, rallies and more, on your unpaid breaks or before and after your shift. That way your boss doesn’t have an excuse to punish you.
While employers can get emotional when their employees start the process to join a union, they only rarely stoop to illegal behaviour that violates the labour code. That’s because the penalties and legal costs are very high – they’re designed to be so that employers are discouraged from violating workers’ rights.
If you decide that you want to fight for fairness at work by joining a union, know that we will stand with you and help you every step of the way. All you need to do is hold your head up high, stick to your values, and pull together with your coworkers to create a better workplace.