Almost one of every three Canadian workers belongs to a union.
According to Statistics Canada, roughly 3.6 million employees in the Canadian workforce in 1998 were union members.
Here are some of the reasons.
Unionized workers generally earn more than non-union employees performing similar work. The average hourly wage in Canada is about 29.8% higher for unionized employees compared to non-union workers – and the gap is even larger for part-time employees.
Better Health Care, Pensions and Other Benefits
Union representation also means that you are more likely to have a dental and health care plan at your workplace, coverage for sickness or accidents and a pension plan to which your employer contributes.
StatsCan reports 83% of unionized employees are covered by either a pension plan or a group RRSP (compared to just 33% of non-union workers). Unionized workers generally have better paid vacation leave than non-union employees (84% compared to 65%). The same gap exists for health care benefits such as dental plan coverage (77% to 45%) and supplemental health care plans (84% for unionized compared to 45% for non-union).
A Stronger Voice Through Collective Bargaining
An individual employee has little influence over what happens at the workplace and is subject to the arbitrary decisions of his or her employer. Although there are labour laws governing such things as minimum wages, holidays and overtime, these laws establish only minimum rights at a very basic level.
Belonging to a Union and being represented by a Union gives you rights that you do not have as an individual. Rather than dealing with your employer individually concerning the terms and conditions of your employment, employees bargain collectively as a group with the assistance of a Union business representative. The employer is legally obligated to negotiate with your Union and cannot refuse to discuss the issues which are of concern to employees.
One of the most important concerns for any employee in these times of high unemployment and economic uncertainty is the right to keep your job. A collective agreement prevents you from being fired without just cause. In the event of layoffs due to lack of work, most union contracts set out the rules under which layoffs or reductions in the workforce can take place. This ensures fairness to all employees and usually gives recognition to seniority based on length of service.
A Right to Vote on Your Contract
Employees working under a collective agreement are entitled to vote on the acceptance or rejection of any contract negotiated by their union. A majority of employees must vote to accept a tentative contract in order for it to become effective. Therefore, the ultimate decision as to the terms and conditions of employment at the workplace rests with employees through a democratic process.
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