A construction union that champions you.
Join Canada’s top independent construction union representing a diverse workforce of trades people, including carpenters, welders, scaffolders, joiners, and millwrights.
Why join CMAW?
Our benefit plan is a comprehensive package that covers your needs, including health, dental, and life insurance. We also offer an employee and family assistance program to provide support services for you and your family. We’re here for you, and we’ll never leave you stranded.
What you need to know about joining a union.
“Organizing” is labour terminology for joining a union. Workers often join unions when they’re facing unfairness in their workplace, or when they want more input into their wages and working conditions.
So what’s a union all about, and how do you join? We break down the steps in our brochure. You’ll also get some answers to basic questions you might have about the benefits of joining a union, and you’ll learn what your employer can and can’t do after you contact a union about organizing.
You are the union—you and a majority of your co-workers in the workplace. The basic idea of a union is that by joining together with co-workers, you will have a greater ability to be more effective in collectively improving conditions at the workplace. These workplace improvements are achieved through the process of collective bargaining, which concludes with a legally-binding collective agreement, signed between the union and the employer.
The union’s goals in a workplace are its members’ goals:
- Job Security
- Health and Safety in the Workplace
- Pay Equity
- Hours of work
- Employment Equity
- Fair Wages and Benefits
- Family Responsibility Leave
- Dignity and Respect (union security)
- Democratization of the work place
Yes. Working men and women have the legal right to union representation. This right also includes those employed in telework and homeworkers. The Labour Relations Codes and the Canada Labour Code ensures and protects that right.
No. There are some detailed and formal legal steps to follow but the union organizer will assist you with those requirements.
The basic steps in organizing a union aren’t difficult:
(i) You and a majority of your co-workers (excluding management) sign a membership card indicating your desire to become unionized.
(ii) The union will file an Application for Certification as the bargaining agent for your workplace before the appropriate Labour Relations Board, depending on what jurisdiction you are employed in.
In BC, you must sign up at least 45% of the employees in order to apply for certification. In Alberta 40%. The percentages change if there is already collective bargaining representative within the employer already.
In a federally regulated workplace, you must have at least 35% employee support to apply
(iii) The Labour Relations Board will review all membership cards received and determine whether to conduct a supervised vote at the workplace. If the majority votes in favour, the union is certified.
The Federal Labour Code also allows a union to be certified based solely on the membership cards (with no vote) if there is 51% employee support for the union.
It is in the interest of each group of unorganized workers to join a union with experience and proven effectiveness in representing compatible workers in the same industry, service (public or private) or trade. CMAW Canada has a long and proud history representing the wishes, needs and aspirations of workers. As a modern trade union we represent much more than carpenters. We represent school board employees who cover a wide range of work skills, in addition to many specialist workers in construction and the building trades.
Yes. CMAW Canada will handle all contacts in the strictest confidence and the appropriate union will also assure you of the same confidentiality.
Forming a Union.
Your right to organize is protected by legislation. Understanding the law is a critical first step to securing that right.
When you and your co-workers decide it is time to join a union instead of trying to deal with your employer alone, you begin the process of organizing a union.
By joining together with your co-workers, you will have a greater ability to be more effective in getting your employer to improve wages, benefits and working conditions. These workplace improvements are achieved through the process of collective bargaining, which concludes with a legally-binding enforceable collective agreement, signed between the union and the employer.
CMAW Canada also do many other things for their members. CMAW helps its members if they have a problem with health and safety on the job, advocate for them in Workers’ Compensation or Employment Insurance cases, and offer other programs for members and their families. Becoming a CMAW member has far-reaching benefits.
There are provincial and federal labour laws that:
- Ensure you have the right to join and organize a union;
- Protect you if your employer tries to stop you from joining a union;
- Give your union legal recognition; and
- Require your employer to negotiate with your union.
Your freedom to join a union is guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In most workplaces, this right is protected by Provincial Labour Relations Code. If you work in federally regulated sectors such as communications and transportation, the Canada Labour Code applies. (These are similar laws so in the following material, we use “the Code” to refer to both.) The legal agency that administers these laws is called the Labour Relations Board (the Board).
If you are thinking about forming a union at your workplace, you should be aware of the basic steps of the legal process.
If you are organizing a union, it is essential to follow the correct process because employers often hire lawyers to challenge your legal right to join a union. An established union has the expertise and resources to make sure you avoid the legal obstacles your employer may try to put in your way and make sure your employer respects your right to join a union.
Labour law prohibits employers from doing certain things to deter employees from joining a union. Labour law prohibits the following “Unfair Labour Practices”:
- Management threats about job loss, layoffs, loss of benefits because of union.
- Friendly manager’s offer of assistance to help workers join the union.
- Leaflets from anti-union employees if they have been copied on machines at work.
- Anti-union employees holding meetings at work.
- Reassigning union supporters to less desirable shift/work area without cause or reasonable business justification.
- Laying off Union supporters without business justification.
- Transferring or firing Union supporters without cause or proper justification.
- Management calling union supporters in for interviews.
- Management intimidating workers by saying she/he knows who’s signed cards.
- Anti-union “revocation” cards circulating during work time.
- Management posting or circulating threatening, intimidating or coercive letter or leaflet.
If unfair labour practices occur during an organizing campaign at your workplace, contact your union’s representatives as soon as possible.
Employers are permitted by law to do the following when employees want to form a union:
- Employers (and that means all management people including supervisors) can tell employees what they think about a union so long as they don’t use threats or undue influence.
- Employers can make a pitch for the company or organization and say how good the working conditions are.
- Employers can guess the questions about the union that might be bothering people and give their answers. But they’re not supposed to put pressure on workers.
- Employers can give everyone a raise or increase benefits during an organizing drive and some do. (There are restrictions on what an employer can do once the union has applied for a union certificate and also once the union gives notice to bargain the first collective agreement. The rules vary by jurisdiction. Generally the union has to agree to changes, including wage increases.)
- Employers can start to hold monthly, weekly or daily meetings to solve problems.
- Employers can set up a suggestion box.
- Employers can set up a complaint process.
- Employers can provide free coffee and doughnuts for employees.
- Employers can send letters to their employees’ homes.
Tips for new workers.
If you’re thinking about working for a particular employer, getting ready for a job interview, or about to start a new job, ask these questions. Work isn’t just about getting paid, holidays, and benefits. Find out how serious the employer will be about your safety.
Your new employer is required by law to tell you about any hazards at the workplace that they know about. This includes such things as exposure to chemicals, situations in which you have to work at a height, or work activities around potentially dangerous equipment. If you don’t know what the hazards or dangers are, how can you take steps to protect yourself?
In addition to obvious workplace hazards like falling from heights or unguarded machinery, the effects of some hazards take time to show up. Repeated exposures to high noise levels can cause hearing loss. Working repeatedly over a period of time with radiation, dusts and chemicals may increase your risk of diseases such as cancer. Your employer is required by law to share this information with you and to tell you how to work safely with these materials. The law may also require that protective safety equipment be used.
Alberta and BC occupational health and safety regulations require your new employer to make sure you have the skills to safely do the work you’re assigned. If you’re still learning those skills and aren’t yet considered “competent”, then the law requires that you be under the direct supervision of someone who has those skills. For example, if you are learning how to unload chemicals from a tanker truck and your skilled partner is called away for some reason, stop everything until they come back if you don t know exactly what to do. Sure it’s easy to finish the job on your own. And most times everything will go well. But stop everything this time, and first learn all the skills you need to do the job properly. Making sure you have the skills to safely do the work you’re assigned means being properly trained. In certain cases, training must be provided before you begin work. If you’ll be working with hazardous chemicals, you must first receive Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) Training. If you’ll be working with asbestos, you may also need to take a government-approved course. If you’ve been asked to do something that may endanger you or your co-workers and have not been given adequate training or supervision, the law requires you to refuse to do that work. The Occupational Health and Safety Act, the law that requires you to refuse that work, also protects you from disciplinary action by your employer.
Although the law doesn’t require most workplaces to have regular safety meetings, the fact that your employer has them is a good indication of their commitment to safety.
The law requires your employer to make sure that you use appropriate safety equipment when and where it’s necessary. Your employer is also required to make sure that you’re trained in how to use this equipment properly. The law requires employers to provide respiratory protective equipment where there is a breathing hazard, and hearing protection where noise limits set by law are exceeded. Employers are not required by law to provide items such as safety boots, protective eyewear, hard hats and fire resistant clothing. However, if such equipment is necessary, your employer is responsible for making sure that you use it. One of the ways your employer can do this is to ask you to bring your own as a condition of employment.
The law requires your employer to make sure that you’re either competent and have the skills to work safely or are under the direct supervision of someone who is competent. If you’re not under the direct supervision of a competent person, your employer must tell you the emergency procedures before you start work. WHMIS training is required before you begin working with any hazardous materials. WHMIS training must also include what to do in case of an emergency.
The law requires your employer to control the hazards at your workplace. This includes providing fire extinguishers and specialized equipment required to control the hazards that may arise during emergencies. At a minimum, all workplaces must have a first aid kit. The type of kit depends on the number of workers, how hazardous the work is, and the location of the workplace. Most workplaces are required to have individuals present who are trained in providing first aid.
The law requires your employer to provide first aid equipment and services at your workplace. This means that the right type of first aid kit must be on-site and an appropriate number of individuals must be trained in first aid and available at all times. If you do get injured and require first aid, you are required by law to report the injury to your employer as soon as possible.
The law requires you to take reasonable care to protect the health and safety of you and your co-workers. This includes cooperating with your employer by following the employer’s safety rules and taking required safety training. Remember that if you’ve been asked to do something that may endanger you or your co-workers, and have not been given adequate training or supervision, the law requires you to refuse to do that work.
The first person to ask should always be your employer, usually a supervisor, since they know your workplace best. However, you can contact the Workplace Health and Safety Call Centre by dialing toll free 1-866-415-8690 in BC and talk with one of our staff, or reach us on the ‘net through Ask An Expert. All calls are kept confidential. If you’re experiencing a serious problem, one of our Occupational Health and Safety Officers can drop by the workplace and check things out. All questions and complaints are kept confidential.
IMPORTANT: Consent to the Collection, Use and Disclosure of Personal Information
You agree that the Construction Maintenance and Allied Workers (CMAW) and its constituent Locals may collect, use and disclose the personal information contained in this application form for the purpose of investigating, assessing and processing your application for membership.
You specifically consent to the collection, use and disclosure of this information for the purposes of obtaining employment or training opportunities in the construction industry through the Construction Maintenance and Allied Workers (CMAW) and its constituent Locals.
You certify that the statements made and the skills listed in this application are true, and you consent to the above disclosure.
Specific Local Applications.
Please see the list available application forms below. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Feel free to call your CMAW Local Office.