Union Decertification a Popular Option

Just as employees can choose to have a union act as their exclusive bargaining agent, they can also choose to get rid of it. The B.C. Labour Relations Code contains the rules governing decertification for bargaining units within the provincial jurisdiction.

Decertification applications are quite common in British Columbia. The Labour Relations Board receives well over one hundred such applications every year. And the Board’s statistics indicate, roughly, that for every two union certifications there is one decertification.

There are certain time limitations which restrict employees’ ability to apply for decertification. A decertification application cannot occur within 10 months of the certification having been granted. This gives the union an initial opportunity to demonstrate its worth to the employees.

The employees may commence the decertification process by submitting an application signed by at least 45 percent of the employees in the bargaining unit. By signing the application, the employees are acknowledging their desire to no longer be represented by the union in collective bargaining matters. The forms are accessible on the Board’s website at “http://www.lrb.bc.ca/ forms/”.

Upon receipt of an application, the Board will conduct a representation vote. All employees in the bargaining unit will have an opportunity to participate in the vote. If the majority of the employees who cast a vote are against having the union continue to represent them, the Board will cancel the certification.

If there has been any improper interference in the vote (making it unlikely that the vote reflects the true wishes of the employees), the Board may refuse to cancel the certification. And, if fewer than 55 per cent of the employees in the bargaining unit participate in the vote, the Board may order another vote.

Once the union’s certification to represent the bargaining unit is cancelled the collective agreement ceases to be of any effect. And, for 10 months following the decertification (or, in exceptional cases, a shorter period specified by the Board), no other trade union can apply to represent the unit.

Occasionally, employees who have decertified will choose to replace the union with their own, in-house, employee association. The in-house association is usually created, funded, and run by the employees of a single employer.

In-house employee associations are popular, in part, because the need for representation by large unions has largely disappeared. Areas such as minimum employment standards, human rights, and workplace safety are all now blanketed by legislation and policed by governmental agencies. Protecting employees from abuse in these areas was a large part of the traditional appeal of big labour.

Forming an in-house association also offers the potential of locally-tailored results in collective bargaining and grievance administration. And it eliminates the problem of absentee union representatives.

The argument for in-house administration of employment relations is particularly compelling when the issue of union dues is considered. Who wouldn’t prefer to have their dollars put toward local issues rather than into the pockets of big labour?

Whatever the reason, decertification has proven to be a consistently popular option. It’s not a complicated process and is an option which unhappy union members should explore.

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