Unionization Responses: Tips for Employers in Ontario

Unionization Responses: Tips for Employers in Ontario

Employers often seek ways to counter workplace unionization campaigns because they typically prefer a non-unionized environment. However, the rapidly changing dynamics of unionization efforts and the unfamiliarity with the process can lead unprepared employers to face Ontario Labour Relations Board hearings for their actions during the union organization process. This leaves many employers wondering about the best approach to respond to employee unionization in their workplace.

The Ontario Labour Relations Act strictly prohibits employers and anyone acting on their behalf from interfering in the union organizing and administration process. Specifically, employers cannot use coercion, intimidation, threats, promises, or undue influence against employees who are seeking to unionize.

Can I Monitor Unionization Campaigns in My Business?

When employers are responding to employee unionization efforts, they often face a lack of information about their employees’ intentions and the union’s activities. In such situations, some employers may consider monitoring their employees to better understand and respond to the unionization campaign. However, it’s important to note that excessive surveillance of employees involved in unionizing can be viewed as an unfair labor practice. Employers should exercise caution by:

  • Avoiding any actions that might be perceived as interrogating employees about their unionization activities
  • Refraining from directly or indirectly following or surveilling employees who are part of the unionization effort
  • Not engaging in excessive monitoring of the union’s communication with employees

Instead, employers should maintain their regular business operations and focus on enforcing workplace policies and regulations during working hours.

Can I Discipline Employees for Union Organizing in My Business?

During union organizing activities, some actions by employees may lead to disruptions in the workplace as they gauge support for unionization. These activities may attract increased attention from the employer. It’s essential to note that employers should not discipline or terminate employees for engaging in, asking questions about, or advocating for unionization. If a dismissal occurs during a union organization period, it will face closer scrutiny, and employers should seek legal advice before proceeding.

However, this doesn’t mean that all forms of discipline or dismissal are prohibited while employees engage in union organizing. Employers have the right to ensure the safe and efficient operation of the workplace during working hours, which includes expecting employees to fulfill their assigned duties. Disciplinary actions should be well-documented to address any claims of unfair labor practices.

What Am I Allowed to Say During the Union Organization Period?

When responding to employee unionization, any statements made by an employer during the organization period will undergo careful scrutiny to ensure they don’t involve undue influence, intimidation, or coercion. It’s crucial that these statements remain factual and refrain from disparaging the union or its organizing employees. While the Labour Relations Act permits employers to express their views on unionization in the workplace, they should exercise caution and avoid making promises or threats.

Common topics when an employer expresses a preference against unionization include:

  • Union dues
  • Potential strikes
  • Comparisons to similar employers who have unionized
  • The absence of individual employment contracts

If the union has released publications with inaccurate information about the employer, corrections can be provided with accurate facts. However, it’s essential that these corrections do not disparage the union or its potential members, and these comments should be properly documented.

What Actions Should I Avoid?

When dealing with a unionization campaign, employers should avoid the following actions:

  • Making claims that unionization will lead to a loss of business or job security
  • Discussing unionization at the time of awarding pay, bonuses, or employee evaluations
  • Holding meetings specifically to advocate against unionization in the workplace
  • Promising enhanced pay, bonuses, or other benefits in exchange for voting against unionization

It’s crucial for employers to understand that employees have the right to unionize, and any attempt to exert control over their livelihoods to resist unionization may result in findings of Unfair Labour Practices at the Ontario Labour Relations Board. When faced with challenging questions about what employers can or cannot do during a unionization campaign, it’s essential to seek effective legal counsel that can provide practical advice to adapt to changing circumstances.

Related Reading

Can I File Complaints Against My Union For Discrimination?

Employment Law Vs Labour Law: What Is The Difference?

What Do I Do If My Union Won’t Advance My Grievance?

Unfair Labour Practices In Ontario

Trade Union Vs Employer: Proactive Measures

Adjusting Unionized Employees’ Work Duties

Contact Achkar Law

If you are an employer facing a unionization campaign in your business, or an employee who believes your employer has engaged in Unfair Labour Practices, our team of experienced labour 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.