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Unfair Labour Practices in Ontario

In Ontario, the Labour Relations Act specifies various unfair labour practices that unionized employers must not engage in. If the employer is engaged in actions that can be deemed an unfair labour practices under the Labour Relations Act, an application can be made to the Ontario Labour Relations Board. Employers should be weary of an unfair labour practices application as it can open them up to liability for significant monetary damages or other remedies. Given the risks, employers should have an understanding of what practices could be considered unfair labour practices.

Before the Union’s Certification

Generally, the employer cannot improperly interfere in the formation of a union at its workplace. While the employer can state its opinion on the potential union while it’s organizing and enforce its workplace standards, the employer can not take direct action to prevent the union’s formation itself. The employer cannot coerce employees to oppose the union or issue threats. In the same vein, employers cannot make promises of better working conditions if an employee opposes the potential union. These actions would be seen as directly attempting to sway employees against unionization, not of their own accord.

Furthermore, employers cannot use surveillance methods or act in an intrusive manner while employees are organizing the union drive. Employers must also be careful not to interrogate an employee regarding potential union activity. Even innocent questioning regarding the number of employees present at a union organizing meeting or why an employee supports a union could be considered interrogating.

Circumventing the Union – Unfair Labour Practices

Once a union has been certified, an employer should be careful not to make efforts to circumvent the union. An employer may attempt to circumvent the union by hiring non-unionized employers to perform work the union holds bargaining rights over, creating a separate company that is not covered by the collective agreement to perform the same type of work, or threatening new employees not to join the union. In these types of situations, the Ontario Labour Relations Board could issue a decision confirming separate companies are related employers or extending the union’s coverage to the non-unionized employees utilized.

The above listed conduct is not exhaustive, but can lead to significant liability for an employer found to be engaging in such conduct. Certain breaches to the collective agreement by the employer could also be considered unfair labour practices, such as an employer failing to pay union dues. Considering the risks unfair labour practices pose and the various conduct that could fall under its umbrella, employers should ensure they consult a labour lawyer before taking action that could impact a union.

Contact Us

If you are an employer and have questions related to the union certification process or what actions you can take in relation to your union, our team of experienced labour lawyers at Achkar Law can help. Contact us by phone toll-free at +1 (866) 508-2548 or email us at [email protected] and we would be happy to assist.

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