Labour law is a highly specialized area of law that deals with relations between employers, employees and labour unions.
Of principal concern to both employers and employees is the process by which employees are organized to create or join a labour union. Waterous has many years of experience in assisting both employers and employees comply with the limited steps available to each of them to communicate their views and preferences when faced with the possibility of an organizing campaign by a labour union. This can be a very sensitive area in labour relations and a wrong step taken early in this process can be extremely difficult to overcome later in the relationship.
The Labour Relations Act (Ontario) is the legislation in Ontario that provides employees with the legal right to organize. This legislation sets out the unionization process and the constraints and limitations placed on all parties involved in the process. Care to ensure compliance with these constraints and limitations is of utmost importance for all parties throughout the process.
The certification process operates in a democratic manner and is designed to ensure that the will of the majority of the employees will prevail. If the initial organizing campaign results in union cards being signed by at least forty percent of all employees in a bargaining unit, a vote will be held at the employer’s work place to determine if the employees wish to create or join a labour union. If at least fifty percent of the employees vote in favour of establishing or joining a labour union, the labour union is automatically certified as the bargaining agent for all of the employees in the particular bargaining unit.
The labour union and the employer will then begin to negotiate their first contract, or collective agreement, which will set out the terms of the relationship between the employer and all of the employees within the bargaining unit. Once the contractual relationship between the employer and the employees has been settled, the parties can work toward resolving any grievances that may later arise, based on the terms of the contract. If any grievance cannot be settled between the parties it will be resolved by an independent arbitrator who will interpret the contract and make a ruling on the grievance. The arbitrator’s ruling is binding on the employer, the union and the employee or employees who filed the grievance.
This is a superficial overview of the organizing process and the manner in which grievances by unionized employee groups are resolved. The complexities of labour law should not be underestimated. Waterous has considerable experience in the practice of labour law and can assist the parties throughout the process. Our goal always is to achieve a result which encourages and fosters good personnel relations and the economic viability of the business enterprise.