Little Pink Book

What you Should Know:

A trade union or labour union is an organization of workers who have banded together to achieve common goals in key areas such as:

  • Wages/Hours of Work/Working Conditions

Unions, through their leadership, bargain with employers on behalf of union members(sometimes called rank and file members) and negotiate collective agreements(contracts) with employers. This may include

  • Negotiation of wages
  • Work Rules
  • Complaint procedures
  • Rules governing hiring, firing, promotions, benefits, workplace health & safety, and policies

The agreements, negotiated by the union and ratified by the rank and file, are binding on the members and their employer.

Why Unions?

    1. To give a collective voice to the workers when dealing with the employer
    2. To maintain or improve the conditions of employement.
    3. To provide benefits to insure the members against unemployment, ill health & old age.
    4. To promote legislation that is favourable to the interests of the members or workers as a whole.

Unions were illegal for many years in most countries. Despite this, the unions were formed and began to acquire political power eventually resulting in the body of labour law that not only legalized organizing efforts, but codified the relationship between employers and organized union employees. The right to join a trade union is now part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Attempts by employers to prevent union membership among their employees are known to be union busting.

Bargaining a Collective Agreement

Bargaining a collective agreement does not guarantee that it will be lived up to by the employer. Unions have to ensure the terms and conditions of the contract are honored by the employers. Unions defend their member’s jobs and make sure that the value of work is properly recognized by those who make the economic decisions in our society. Unions interpret the collective agreement to ensue that the contract is being properly adhered to and protect their member’s rights.

What have Unions Helped to Achieve?

    1. Health Care-unions bargain for health care benefits for their members and then helped to win a national public health care system that is universally accessible and publically administered
    2. Employment Standards-unions fought to establish minimum wages, work hours, and overtime pay
    3. Holiday-At one time workers lost income if they wanted time off-unions bargained for paid holidays and vacation.
    4. Health & Safety-unions pressure and workplace action forced governments to enact laws to protect workers health & safety on the job.
    5. Unemployment Insurance- the labour movement organized to demand benefits for people who lost their jobs.
    6. Paid Maternity Leave-it took strikes in the public sector to win paid maternity leave for women.
    7. Human Rights-unions contracts were the first to forbid discrimination in the workplace.
    8. Alberta’s Workers Compensation-that it is universal, employer paid and provides for rehabilitation and job counciling.
    9. Family Allowance-Canada’s first universal welfare program in support of Canadian Children.
    10. Canada Pension Plan and OAS-universal employment-based pension, transferable from job to job and provides for death, survivor and disability benefits.
    11. Collective Bargaining- most of today’s employment standards are the result of collective bargaining. Hours of work, vacations, freedom from discrimination etc.
    12. Benefits for Non-Unionized Employees- unions make a difference for non-union workers by raising the standards for everyone. Many non-union companies try to keep in line with the wages & benefits set out by union negotiated contracts.

And there’s more:

  • 83% of unionized workers have benefits, such as pension plans, medical or illness leave/special leave, training allowances, retirement plans as opposed to only 31% of non unionized workers.
  • Unions have raised the standards so that everyone benefits.
  • Without a union, the boss is supreme and there is no one to turn to should the employer ignore employment standards.
  • Women are still fighting to become equal in the workplace. Unions have taken up the cause for equality.

You Belong to a Union – Now What?

  • Be sure to read your collective agreement-it’s your contract
  • Be informed – attend your meetings
  • Remember, everybody has a voice and a vote.
  •  Get educated about your place in the union- it’s free
  • Time off from work is paid for by the union while taking union courses
  • Make yourself heard and share your ideas for a better working conditions
  •  Don’t be afraid to ask questions
  • Contact your AUPE Membership Services Officer(MS) or you Union Rep anytime. They are there to help you.