Advantages of Certifying
Certification as a trade union has produced significant results for PEA members that would not have been achieved under “collegial” models.
Without certification, your employer can amend your terms of employment unilaterally. The employer doesn't have to consult or bargain with you. Where terms of employment are negotiated without a collective agreement, the employer may violate or unilaterally change the terms. An employer can even ignore or dismiss the dispute resolution provisions of a voluntary agreement.
In these cases, employees can only seek recourse and enforcement through long and expensive court action. If your employer has other bargaining units which are certified, those units have the advantage of additional rights under labour law and a stronger bargaining position with the employer, further disadvantaging non-unionized professionals.
Certification is empowering. Certification with any union gives employees rights they don't otherwise have. These examples are based on the BC Labour Relations Code. Similar provisions are found in other provincial codes and in the Canada Labour Code for federally regulated industries.
- Certification obliges the employer to sit down with your representatives to negotiate your working terms. Both parties are required to negotiate in good faith with the intention of concluding a workable agreement.
- Certification bars the employer from changing your negotiated terms without agreement. All collective agreements are registered with the Ministry of Labour and the Labour Relations Board (LRB). Labour law provides specialized and expedited routes for enforcing agreements.
- Certification requires employers to consult with employees about workplace problems. Every agreement is required to have a provision requiring consultation between the parties.
- Certification gives employees a means of impartially resolving disputes. Agreements must include grievance provisions. The right to file a grievance without retribution is guaranteed by law. If a grievance is not resolvable between the employer and the union, the union can take the grievance to binding arbitration.
- Certification places a duty of fair representation upon the union. Union representation must be fair, unbiased, and non-discriminatory. Reasonable consideration must be given to the claims of all persons covered by the certification. Bargaining unit members who are not dealt with fairly can seek redress through the LRB.
- Certification gives employees more tools for negotiating with employers. The Ministry of Labour offers free mediation services to help settle collective agreements. Parties can also negotiate terms allowing for the arbitration of collective agreements if a settlement can't be reached through negotiation. Finally, certification makes it possible for employees to take job action to pressure the employer to settle an agreement, including partial or full withdrawal of services and even picketing. A union with significant resources has more room for creativity when considering how to put pressure on an employer. The employer can also lock out employees to pressure them to settle an agreement.
- Certification also gives any unit the same legal standing as other unionized employees. This legal standing is particularly important in disputes over which units particular positions belong in. It also gives employees representation when an action by one union will affect persons not in that unit.
These are not notional advantages — they are real and substantial. But the onus to ensure that certification results in improved employment conditions remains chiefly on the members. Like any other union, the PEA is only as strong as its members — no union can be effective without members who are personally committed to common objectives. Many of these benefits are useless if members aren't involved in the work of the union and the union does not have the members' support.