An employer is permitted to engage in pro-active communication strategies with respect to expressing its views about union representation. Such communications may involve letters or memos to employees, postings or bulletins, videotape presentations and meetings or speeches. An improper ?communication? by the employer, or an employer representative (e.g. supervisor, or employee acting on behalf of the employer), could prove to be fatal to the employer’s goal of maintaining union-free status.
The Board’s jurisprudence indicates that an employer is permitted to inform employees that while it does not intend to interfere in the rights of employees to make the decision, it would prefer to operate without the intervention of a union in the workplace. However, the Act prescribes certain limits on an employer’s right to ?free speech?:
s.70 – No employer or employers? organization and no person acting on behalf of an employer or an employers? organization shall participate in or interfere with the formation, selection or administration of a trade union or the representation of employees by a trade union or contribute financial or other support to a trade union, but nothing in this section shall be deemed to deprive an employer of the employer’s freedom to express views so long as the employer does not use coercion, intimidation, threats, promises or undue influence.
Effectively, employers are prohibited from supporting ?pro-union? employees and/or ?anti-union? employees.
During a union organizing campaign, especially following the service of the Application for Certification, the employer cannot promise to improve any of the terms and conditions of employment.
Unless the employer has a past practice of doing so, it cannot ask employees to ?tell us your problems and we will try to deal with them?.
During an organizing campaign, an employer cannot make promises of increased job security; nor can the employer indicate that if the union is certified, job security may be adversely affected.
Unions are not subject to the same legal restrictions as employers with respect to the types of promises that can be made during an organizing campaign. For example, unions frequently make promises of higher wages, improved benefits and increased job security. Therefore, it is important for employers to develop approaches to employee communications (and job satisfaction) well in advance of union organizing activity. The following provides examples of appropriate messages to employees.
(Usually but not exclusively when there are visible signs of organizing activity)
Make certain that employees understand the following facts about unions and the effects of certification:
– Union becomes exclusive bargaining agency
– inability to deal with each person individually
– inflexibility of union contract
– union has a constitution which has internal discipline, fines, hearings
– union dues are set by the union
– everyone must pay union dues
– generally dues are two hours pay per month (query the return on this investment)
– strikes only occur in union companies (amount of strike pay and how long paid)
– negotiations (no guarantees – begins with a blank sheet of paper)
– collective agreement is a company decision – must be agreed to
-decertification (difficult to accomplish making this a serious and long term decision)
– job security comes only from successful operations
– there are lots of different unions with different approaches
– unions are involved in political activity including days of action / protest
– unions and union executives make a lot of money
– employees may establish their own association or union
Also ensure that employees understand:
– the reasons behind unfavourable (in their eyes) company decisions
– that these cannot and will not be changed even if there was a union
– that the company listens to them and makes changes
– that unionised competitors or local industries have laid off or gone out of business
– all of the positive attributes about working for the Company…..benefits, programs, bonuses, open direct communications, teamwork, security, individual personal relationships, etc.
– the efforts of the Company to consistently monitor all policies and procedures for even application.