There is not much more frightening for employers than the
possibility of becoming unionized. Upon learning of a union drive
in the workplace, an employer should develop a strategic response
to ensure the best chance of defeating a union's organizing
Communication to employees regarding a union is an important
tool that can be used by employers to combat a union's
organizing campaign. An employer is permitted to express its views
about a union as long as the employer does not use "coercion,
intimidation, threats, promises or undue influence". The OLRB
can order certification without a vote where the employer's
communications to employees contravenes the Labour Relations
Act (the "Act"). As such, a union
organizing campaign is a period during which the employer's
conduct and all communication will be scrutinized by the union and
possibly the OLRB. Employers must develop an appropriate
communication strategy that achieves the goal of reducing the
likelihood of unionization while not violating the
Two cases provide some insight on the dos and don'ts of
employer communications. In CEP v Boehmer Box, the
employer circulated three memos to employees.1 The memos
made references to unemployment, the ability of the company to
compete and the possible loss of customers. The employer also noted
that facilities in which the CEP held bargaining rights had closed.
The OLRB found that the employer had raised the possibility of job
loss by connecting unionization with a loss of the company's
competitiveness in violation of the Act. The Board ordered
certification without a vote.
In Service Employees International Union v PRP Senior Living
Inc. o/a Sunrise of Aurora, the employer undertook significant
steps in an attempt to prevent unionization.2 Senior
management and executives from the United States attended the
workplace as soon as the union organizing efforts commenced. Senior
management held a series of one-on-one meetings with employees to
discuss the employees' views of the union and workplace issues.
In addition, the union alleged the following: that videos,
bulletins and letters were provided to employees which suggested
that the union would lie or mislead; materials questioned the
employees ongoing job security; and town hall meetings were held to
discuss the union. The OLRB noted that certain acts by the employer
in isolation would not have breached the Act. However, the
cumulative effect of the employer's actions constituted
"undue influence" and as a result, certification was
The following are some practical tips for communicating with
employees during a union drive:
carefully craft written
communiqués to employees that address the process and
importance of voting, the successes achieved without the union and
the negatives associated with a union;
highlight issues that are supported
by documentation such as the union's ability to deduct fees or
the quantum of strike pay;
respond to incorrect assertions
advanced by the union;
consider the timing for the delivery
of communiqués to employees as opposed to a bombardment of
communications with employees;
assume all communication (written or
verbal) will be attacked by the union;
ensure supervisors and management are
informed about the process and the importance of proper
communication with employees.
A union organizing drive is an intense period in which an
employer's response must be carefully considered. Proper
communication with employees is an important component of the
overall strategy that should be developed for the best chance of
 Communications, Energy and Papwerworkers Union of
Canada v Boehmer Box LP,  O.L.R.D. No. 992.
 Service Employees International Union v PRP
Senior Living Inc. o/a Sunrise of Aurora,  O.L.R.D. No.
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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