Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any dues to pay to join a union?

Yes. PSAC’s union dues range from 1% to 1.5% of the salary. Dues are 40% income-tax deductible and are always withdrawn according to the lowest chart in the collective agreement’s salary scale. PSAC provides that no dues should be paid until the first collective agreement is adopted by the local union members and is legally comes into force.

What do my dues pay for?

Dues cover the cost of union services: negotiating collective agreements, training classes, local representation to assist with workplace problems, representation at third party arbitrations, assistance in dealing with legal issues, etc. The dues pay for all the fees encountered for these procedures and the proper staff to ensure the respect of the agreements and labour laws.

Legal fees can be extremely expensive to non-union associations. In cases where there employees are not represented, they might have to engage serious fees in legal procedures in order to assert their rights. With a union, these procedures: 1) cost less on the overall since the local and national union employees provide these services; 2) dues are at a reasonable level in order to defend and protect employees from arbitrariness.

Does everyone have to pay union dues ?

The Canadian labour law provides that all employees within a unionized work place shall enjoy the benefits of the collective agreement. In return for these benefits and union defense, all employees contribute with dues. The union has a duty of mandatory representation for all the employees, regardless of their membership status.

What is the process to get unionized?

In order to create a fully-recognized union under the Canadian Labour Code:

  • At least 40% of the employees must sign a membership card;
  • The Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) will organize a vote. The majority of the employees must agree with the creation of a labour union;
  • If successful, CIRB will recognize and certify the union. The union will then represent its members, which will elect its officials, adopt demands, bargain with the employer in order to establish a collective agreement, etc.
  • Employer management is in no way implicated in these procedures.

Is the union membership process confidential?
Yes. The law provided numerous previsions to ensure the confidentiality of the process:

  • Section 8 of the Canadian Labour Code provides that “Every employee is free to join the trade union of their choice and to participate in its lawful activities”;
  • Article 35 of the Canadian Industrial Relations Board provides that “The Board, or an employee of the Administrative Tribunals Support Service of Canada who is authorized to act on behalf of the Board, must not disclose evidence that could reveal membership in a trade union, opposition to the certification of a trade union or the wish of any employee to be represented, or not to be represented, by a trade union, unless the disclosure would further the objectives of the Code”;

Can an employer interfere with the unionization process?

The employer has no right to interfere in a unionization process:

  • Article 24 (4) of the Canadian Labour Code provides that “Where an applicationby a trade union for certification as the bargaining agent for a unit is made in accordance with this section, no employer of employees in the unit shall, after notification that the application has been made, alter the rates of pay, any other term or condition of employment or any right or privilege of such employees (…)”;
  • Article 94 of the Canadian Labour Code indicated what kind of practices is deemed unfair. It provides that an employer cannot:

(a) participate in or interfere with the formation or administration of a trade union or the representation of employees by a trade union; or

(b) contribute financial or other support to a trade union.

Why join PSAC?

PSAC is one of Canada’s most active union in regard to unionization, helping to unionize more than 30 000 employees since 15 years. It represents federal employees in numerous sectors of activities such as foreign affaires employee, including embassies, as well as an important number of Canada’s researchers. IDRC is active in a field that is already well known to PSAC, a union 170 000-members strong coast to coast.

What can a union negotiate in a collective agreement?

Almost anything can be bargained into a union collective agreement: pay raises, job protection, benefits, improved health and safety, etc. Important measures regarding harassment and workforce adjustment can not only be negotiated but also reinforced by union action. A union can be involved in the process of workforce adjustment in order to prevent arbitrary measures and ensure that all employees are treated fairly. Unlike an association that is not recognized by the CIRB, a certified union has the legal means to enforce a collective agreement and make sure that the employer honours any commitments it made and agreed with the union.

Are union strikes common?

No. And no strike can occur without a majority vote by secret ballot from the employees. Strikes are also covered by the Canadian Labour code which provides that strikes and lock- outs are forbidden during the term of the collective agreement (article 88). Article 89 provides further regulates the strike terms. No strike can happen unless the local union has a dully-adopted mandate from its members. Even though strikes are uncommon, PSAC provides local unions with one of Canada’s most important strike fund.