Windsor-Essex County Labour Lawyers Advising Employers on Union Avoidance

Union organizing drives can be born from varying circumstances. In some cases, they arise from an environment of employee disengagement and dissatisfaction. Other situations lend themselves easily to unionization without any particular discord in the workplace, particularly if the industry at issue is heavily unionized.

Regardless of the circumstances, employers wanting to avoid the unionization of their employees must understand employees’ concerns and have a multi-faceted plan for addressing potential workplace issues and demonstrating the benefits of remaining non-unionized (if possible, well in advance of a union organization drive).

The labour lawyers of Willis Business Law are well-versed in the unionization process and provide reliable solutions for employers looking to avoid a union organizing drive. The firm works closely with businesses to understand their particular workplace culture and operational needs and uses its insight to create cutting-edge strategies for union avoidance. By helping employers remain non-unionized while still creating a supportive, positive work environment, Willis Business Law helps companies of all sizes thrive in a changing employment and economic landscape.

How Does a Workplace Become Unionized?

Union Organizing Drive

The first step towards unionization is the union organizing drive. The union typically conducts this process secretly, so the employer may remain completely unaware that unionization is even being considered. The union will have employees confirm their support of unionization by filling out union cards.

Application for Certification

In Ontario, a union can apply to the Ontario Labour Relations Board for certification of a bargaining unit (i.e. to be recognized as a unionized group) after it has collected support from 40% of that unit. The employer has two business days to file a response, in which the employer can raise concerns about the breadth or constitution of the proposed bargaining unit.

Certification or Representation Vote

Once the Ontario Labour Relations Board is satisfied that 40% of the proposed bargaining unit supports unionization, the Board will set a date for a representation vote (typically within five business days after the application was filed). This vote takes place by secret ballot, and if 50% of the employees casting ballots vote to unionize, certification will be granted. Certification gives the union the authority to represent the new bargaining unit in collective bargaining.

How Can an Employer Avoid Unionization?

An employer facing imminent unionization should contact a knowledgeable labour lawyer as early in the process as possible. Legal counsel can build a pragmatic union avoidance strategy tailored to the business and its workforce. For example, the employer may create a response to the union organizing drive that respectfully informs workers of the downsides to unionization while reassuring them that the employer is committed to hearing and addressing any of their concerns. Once the union organizing campaign is underway, the employer may be very time-limited in their ability to respond, so quick action is critical.

It is important to note that employers can take steps to proactively avoid unionization long before an organizing drive is even under consideration. A robust process for receiving, addressing, and remedying employee concerns is vital to maintaining employee engagement and reducing the risk of unionization. Employees are less likely to turn to a union if they are confident that their employer is open to feedback and complaints and will treat their concerns respectfully, fairly, and without reprisal. Policies addressing complaints resolution, respectful workplace requirements, and workplace investigations can be highly beneficial for maintaining a healthy workplace culture.

Demonstrating to employees that their employer values them and is dedicated to improving employer-employee relations can go a long way when striving to keep a workplace non-unionized.

What Should an Employer Avoid When Facing a Possible Unionization?

While employers can (and should) openly address even rumours of possible unionization, certain acts open an employer to allegations of unfair labour practices and labour law violations.

Legal counsel should vet any correspondence to the union to ensure that the employer does not, even unintentionally, violate workers’ labour rights in their response. Employers cannot threaten reprisal against employees (for example, by suggesting workers will be terminated for supporting unionization). They also cannot incentivize rejecting unionization by promising benefits to those who vote against it.

Employers and management must also take care not to interrogate workers about union activities or whether a particular worker supports the union. They must also refrain from spying on union meetings or surveilling employee correspondence regarding union matters.

Willis Business Law: Providing Pragmatic Advice to Windsor-Essex Employers on Unionization

Willis Business Law works closely with employers to create common-sense, personalized union avoidance strategies for employers facing unionization in Windsor-Essex County and the surrounding areas. The firm’s talented labour lawyers are knowledgeable in the certification process as well as the multitude of issues that can lead up to an organizing drive. The labour law group at Willis Business Law works together to help businesses reduce the risk of unionization while fostering a healthy, thriving workforce.

Through its mastery of Canadian business law, employment law, and labour law, Willis Business Law provides multi-faceted legal services to businesses and institutions throughout Windsor-Essex County. Based in the heart of Windsor’s financial district, the firm combines high-calibre professionalism with a dedication to community. To schedule a consultation, please contact the firm online or call 519-945-5470.

Send us a Message

    Contact Information

    Proudly serving clients throughout Windsor-Essex County and the surrounding regions, Willis Business Law combines the professionalism of a big firm with a community-focused approach.

    1 Riverside Drive West, Suite 503
    Windsor, Ontario N9A 5K3
    T (519) 945-5470
    F (519) 945-5479