The Ontario Labour Relations Board's recent decision in
Carpenters', United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners
of America v Regional Municipality of Waterloo demonstrates
the unique nature of union certification in the construction
industry. The case shows how two individuals who were
asked to work on a Saturday, building a small utility shed on
municipal property, were successful in certifying the
Carpenters' union as the bargaining agent for all carpentry
work done by the Region of Waterloo.
Unlike the organizing campaigns and votes most employers are
familiar with, construction unions are provided with the additional
option of bringing what is known as a "card-based"
application. A union will become automatically certified if
the membership evidence filed in support of the application for
certification demonstrates that the union has signed up 55% or more
of the bargaining unit employees who were at work on the date
of application. Card based automatic certification will
apply even where 55% of the employees at work constitute a minority
percentage of the employers' actual total workforce. This
means that two employees can certify the entire workforce of a
Regional Municipality. For strategic reasons, these
applications are often brought by unions on a Saturday, when fewer
employees may be working.
The consequences of union certification in the construction
industry can be particularly challenging: accredited
bargaining agents and Employer Associations are designated by
statute to negotiate collective agreements in respect of particular
trades (i.e. carpenters, operating engineers, electricians, etc.)
in particular sectors. An employer may even find itself
automatically subject to a province-wide collective agreement (such
as in the Industrial-Commercial-Institutional sector).
Construction employers should be sure to learn and understand
the rules regarding union certification in their industry.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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