Join OPSEU: Frequently asked Questions

What is a union?

A union is an organized group of workers who collectively use their strength to have a voice in their workplace.

What are the benefits of belonging to a union?

You and your co-workers will be able to bargain for things like job security, working hours, vacation pay, pay equity as well as health and drug coverage. Furthermore, unions offer greater protection from harassment, discrimination, violence and other unjust actions that may occur in the workplace. A union will support and represent you when dealing with your employer, should you need it. Unions also oversee wellness on the job, including health threats such as exposure to mould and chemicals, repetitive strain injuries and other risks to workplace health and wellbeing in traditional and non-traditional workplaces. Finally, there are a number of benefits that OPSEU offers its members, including educational and leadership opportunities, discounted cell phone plans, home and car insurance, and travel and group discounts.

What is the first step in unionizing my workplace?

Start by contacting OPSEU! Our friendly staff will lay out the process for you in easy-to-understand terms. And we’ll be right there to help every single step of the way.

Can I be disciplined or fired for trying to start a union?

Absolutely not! The Ontario Labour Relations Act forbids an employer from disciplining or firing anyone for the sole cause of organizing or participating in a union.

Will I have to personally participate in starting the union?

The union doesn’t do it alone. Once you have made the initial contact, an OPSEU representative will meet with you and other interested co-workers to help develop an organizing plan. Leaders will be identified and an organizing committee will be established.

How will OPSEU unionize my workplace?

OPSEU will train the organizing committee immediately. Also, basic information about the workplace is gathered, including workplace structure, and employee and employer information.

With OPSEU, the committee develops a program of union demands (the improvements you are organizing to achieve) and a strategy for the union election campaign, as well as various organizing campaign activities that highlight the union’s demands in preparation for the vote.

Again with OPSEU’s help, the committee will then begin its information campaign, where every eligible employee is asked to sign a union membership card.

Who will see the union membership cards?

Only OPSEU and the Ontario Labour Relations Board will see the cards – never your employer.

Will these cards be kept confidential?

Absolutely. Confidentiality is of the upmost importance to the union.

Will my co-workers and I get in trouble with my employer for signing a membership card?

The membership cards will be kept confidential – your employer will never know who signed one. It is against the law for an employer to punish someone for the sole cause of joining or participating in a union.

If we sign membership cards, what do my colleagues and I get?

The membership cards get you a vote on whether to obtain a collective agreement through OPSEU. A “yes” vote gets you bargaining rights in matters relating to your rights at work. You will have a chance to participate in negotiations with management to shape your workplace and help improve it for yourself and everyone. 

What is the next step after signing membership cards?

The membership cards will be collected, tallied and sent to the Ontario Labour Relations Board at the end of the campaign. If at least a majority of eligible workers sign a card, then there will be a vote to let all workers choose whether to become part of OPSEU.

What happens if the vote is yes?

The next step will be to elect representatives for your bargaining team. During this time, you will also get to participate in meetings to determine what you want to see in your first collective agreement.

What is a collective agreement?

A collective agreement is a set of rules that both the company and the union must abide by.

If the vote is yes, can some of my colleagues opt out or not pay dues?

The law says that if a majority of eligible workers vote in favour of a union, then all workers automatically belong to the union and must pay union dues. However, there is no requirement that they participate in any union activities.

How much are union dues?

OPSEU union dues are just 1.375 per cent of gross salary. This is one of the lowest rates in Canada. The dues are payable only once a collective agreement has been negotiated and ratified. Union dues are 100 per cent tax deductible.

What about strikes? I’m worried about them.

The vast majority of contracts are achieved without a strike. Furthermore, no strike can occur without a majority vote by secret ballot.

I know someone who was in a union, and it didn’t do anything for them.

Often workers don’t realize what the union has done for them. Many benefits we often take for granted – like decent wages, health and drug coverage, vacation pay and sick pay – have been negotiated by the union. Further, when a union defends people who have been harassed or suffered discrimination or violence in the workplace, all workers benefit. 

Publication Date: 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013 (All day)