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Defending Employers Against Unions

In Ontario, there are several unionized workplaces. In these workplaces, certain types of employees are required to become part of a union which collectively bargains with the employer and will represent the employees in disputes with the employer. The union and the employer are bound by the terms of a comprehensive collective agreement which acts as an employment agreement covering the entire union. Normally, a union has exclusive rights to represent its members in employment, non-human rights, based legal matters against the employer. However, employers can fully utilize independent and outside counsel in disputes against a union, where the lawyer defends the employer against unions.

When Might an Employer Require Counsel Against a Union?

The interactions and relationship between a union and an employer are normally governed by Ontario’s Labour Relations Act. The Labour Relations Act specifies unfair labour practices the employer must not engage in and that certain disputes, such as a dispute surrounding unfair labour practices, are to be brought before the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

A union may bring an application alleging the employer is engaged in unfair labour practices whereby the employer is in breach of its obligations under the Labour Relations Act. The Labour Relations Act additionally sets out the procedure on how collective bargaining, the act of reaching a collective agreement, is conducted, and may require an application to the Ontario Labour Relations Board if the employer is not following proper procedure. Furthermore, a union may allege an employer is in fact related to another employer in order to extend its collective bargaining rights beyond the employer it holds the initial collective agreement with.

These represent only a small number of examples where an employer may face a legal battle with a union. One important note for employers is that the Labour Relations Act normally imposes very short deadlines which can in some cases take an employer by surprise.

How Counsel can Assist an Employer Against a Union

An employer will normally retain an opportunity to defend itself against an Ontario Labour Relations Board application commenced by a union. An employer may need to assert it is not engaging in any unfair labour practices, is not a related employer to any other workplace, or has not violated any other aspect of the Labour Relations Act or the collective agreement. An employer may also seek to dispute a group of employees attempting to form a union. Legal counsel can assist an employer in these instances in ensuring the employer’s arguments meet proper procedure and are in line with the existing law.

An employer may also consider legal counsel worth retaining to assist with collective bargaining negotiations, to ensure the union does not aggressively negotiate an unfair agreement with the employer.

Contact Us

If you are an employer and require assistance against legal action commenced by a union or want to know more about your rights in relations to unionized workplaces, our team of experienced workplace lawyers at Achkar Law can help. Contact us by phone toll-free at +1 (800) 771-7882 or email us at [email protected] and we would be happy to assist.

If you are a small or medium-sized company looking for full-service support with same day response, visit our CLO Program page for our strategic solutions.