What an employer can and cannot do when workers want to form 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.

What an employer is permitted to do

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.