You DO have a right to organize!


Organizing a company or shop is the process of obtaining Union representation for employees. This page will cover your rights as an employee, and highlight the challenges that may come with an attempt at shop organization.

Your right to organize is covered under the Saskatchewan Employment Act under Part VI, Labour Relations, starting on page 142 of the following link, click here.

This is the legislation that protects you in your organizing campaigns. It is the Law! Any breach of this legislation by the employer should be discussed with your local Union organizer. Even if you are an unrepresented (non-union) electrician, the organizer will have the concern brought before the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board and the issue rectified. The IBEW has the primary goal of fair wages and working conditions for ALL electricians, not just those who are already Union members.

Sask. Employment Act 6‑4(1) Employees have the right to organize in and to form, join or assist unions and to engage in collective bargaining through a union of their own choosing.

The legislation is a legal document, and doesn't make for very good recreational reading. I will attempt to capture the important points found therein, and bolster them with an example of a real world scenario. To accomplish this I will use an anecdotal situation to go over the steps it takes, and the possible hurdles along the way to shop certification (meaning a unionized workplace).



Let's say there is a company called Electric-Electric Ltd. (I had to make one up and all the good names are taken). Electric-Electric Ltd. or E.E.L. is a non-union shop which employs 100 electricians, a combination of journeypersons and apprentices. Many of the workers there are talking with each other about being part of the IBEW. Lots of friends and co-workers have left the workplace to join the Union and are still in contact reporting all good things. In fact, it turns out all the negative things they have heard about the Union are not true. The electricians who are still working at E.E.L. really like the idea of being part of the IBEW, but they don't want to leave their company. They enjoy the work they do, the people they work with, and the familiarity with their employer. What they don't like are the many ways they are being treated unfairly, and the discipline taken on those who speak up about the working conditions. 

There are a growing number of complaints and inconsistences within the workforce. The workers are treated like a disposable resource, if they don't toe the line they are laid off. One supervisor even said "...electricians are a dime a dozen...if you don't like it we'll find someone to replace you in an instant..."

There is pressure to work weekends, but no overtime is offered. The required tool list is enormous and the employees often joke with one another because they provide so many tools and equipment of their own, they might as well have their own company. The supervisors and management are all well taken care of but have the viewpoint that the companies bottom-line comes ahead of everything else. The workers understand that the owners need to "make a buck" to be successful, but that should come with operating a good business and not by taking advantage of the workforce. The company is very busy, with many large projects on the go, but there is no sign of fair wages, pension, or working conditions ever coming to the average worker. It's true that a pension is offered after 5 years of service, but there have been so many co-workers laid off after 4 1/2 years that it's viewed as a cut off time frame for employment, instead of a milestone to be reached for. Many of those who were laid off after 4 1/2 years were even called a few weeks or months later and offered their jobs back. When they asked about their pension, they were told that because of the lapse in their employment they would have to start from zero and put in the 5 years required before qualifying for a pension.

The worst part is that the company is doing so well, making millions of dollars, but state again and again that they can't afford higher wages and pension for everyone. As the owner flies around in his private jet, drives the latest model flashy car, and has many real estate properties to live in all around the country, the average worker is paid just enough to keep them around and not a fair representation of the companies successes.

The workers at E.E.L. contact the Local IBEW Union Hall and ask for advice on organizing their work place. They have many questions and don't quite know where to start....

Q. How does this all work?

A. 45% of the workforce needs to show support for forming a union by signing a Union Support Card. The signed cards are completely confidential, and are turned into the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board. A vote is then issued by the Board.  All the electricians at the company receive a secret ballot in the mail, and once they fill it out, they mail it back. Again, no one will ever find out who has signed a support card or which way an individual voted on their ballot. Once the vote is counted, an order will be issued by the board. All it takes is 50% + 1 of the workforce to decide the vote. In other words if 51 out of the 100 electricians at E.E.L. vote yes, the company will become certified as a Union company.

Q. Where can I get a Union Support Card?

A. Visit the Print a Support Card page or contact your local IBEW organizer. They will be able to meet you at your convenience and provide you with a Union Support Card for you to sign, and additional Union Support Cards for any co-workers who are also wishing to sign. The organizer will collect any signed Union Support Cards for submission to the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board. Once the process of signing Union Support Cards has begun, the Union Drive (also called an organizing campaign) will be on its way to achieving Union representation for the employees.   

Q. What happens if my employer finds out I am supporting an organizing campaign? 

A. In a ideal situation, nothing would happen. Some employers believe in the value of Trade Unions and will not oppose a Union Drive. Unfortunately, many employers have a negative attitude towards Union representation of their employees, and may strongly oppose an organizing campaign?

Q. What can an employer do to stop a Union Drive?

A. This is tricky. What they can do (allowed by the law), and what they will do (in contravention of the law), are two different things.     

Q. What is an employer allowed to do, in accordance with the law?

A. Simply put, an employer is allowed to give an opinion, and not much more.

Q. What is an employer not allowed to do, in contravention of the law? 

A. An employer is not allowed to use coercion or intimidation of any kind to dissuade anyone from becoming part of a Union. There shall be no threats, discipline, or bullying. Even negative joking is a form of coercion. We've all heard jokes like "...why would you want to join the Union, you'll just gain 10lbs and forget how you use your tools..." Any actions or speach which have the affect of causing a person to refrain from becoming or attempting to become part of a Union is Illegal. As per the Saskatchewan Employment Act 6-6, no employer shall;

(a) refuse to employ or refuse to continue to employ a person; (b) threaten termination of employment or otherwise threaten a person; (c) discriminate against or threaten to discriminate against a person with respect to employment or a term or condition of employment or membership in a union; (d) intimidate or coerce or impose a pecuniary or other penalty on a person.

If you are subjected to any negative treatment that you feel relates to your rights to belong to a Union, make sure you contact your local Union organizer. Even if you feel it is a minor transgression, or don't want to "bother" the organizer. Every small piece in a puzzle adds up to one big picture. Transgressions can be anything from changing your regular duties to less desirable ones, isolating you from coworkers, or even employment termination. Recently a non-union employer fired two electricians for participating in an organizing campaign. They contacted the Union organizer who filed an Unfair Labour Practice on their behalf with the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board. Within days they were given the option of returning to their jobs by their employer. The conclusion was that the employer was held accountable for his actions, and the employees suffered no lost wages.

What an employer is very likely to do...

When an employer becomes aware of an active organizing campaign or union drive, many things will probably happen. As mentioned before, some employers are not opposed to Union certification of the company. They will possibly inform the workforce of the Union drive and direct them to some resources so they can make an informed decision, the Saskatchewan Employment Act, the Union's Collective Bargaining Agreement, etc. These employers are usually those who adhere to labour laws and proper apprentice ratios, usually pay a competitive fair wage, and may benefit from the buying power of being part of a large pool in the health and welfare plan. Many employers however, will be opposed to a Union drive.

An employer opposed to Union organizing may try to solve any complaints in house, or without the involvement of the Union. Its not uncommon for the employer to promise raises or change company policies in attempt to satisfy concerns. There could be a company meeting called, with food and drinks, etc., where the employer offers solutions without "needing the Union". They will offer the same old, but effective, threats of the downsides to belonging to a Union. The company will close their doors, there won't be any work, etc. (see the FAQ page for more detail). Another tactic the employer may try to employ is to single out those individuals who are promoting the Union drive. It's important to be careful with attendance, performance and safety policies, as most employers know they cannot fire you for organizing, but they can fire you for safety infractions, etc. or more likely give you a layoff for "shortage of work". It's very important to keep track of any changes in treatment once you're employer becomes aware of the organizing campaign. Once you have signed a Union Support Card, there is a certain amount of protection that can be afforded to you with regards to your right to become part of a Union and possible termination of employment because of your desire to express this right. Some individuals will proudly display pro-union stickers on their tool boxes and hard hats, and speak openly about how they are trying to obtain Union representation. Some individuals will not be comfortable doing that and though they support a Union drive and desire the chance to vote, they will be much more reserved in their public displays of support.   

In the end, it's important to make an informed decision, and not take your employers word at face value. For that matter don't take my word at face value either. Do your best to speak with Union members who used to be non-union electricians. Speaking with them is a great place to start, after all they were once in your shoes, and can relate to your current situation. You should also familiarize yourself with the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Click here to see what policies you are voting for.

Remember if an employer is opposed to unionization and the campaign is defeated in a vote, there is nothing to hold them accountable to any of the promises or changes they have made leading up to the certification vote. It's truly sad, but often times raises or policy changes brought into effect or promised during a Union drive are redacted after a majority no vote is announced. There is a one year "cooling off period" after any certification vote is conducted. This means the workforce will have to wait one year before they attempt another vote.        


``With the I.B.E.W. there has always been a great supply of highly skilled, productive, safety-minded, highly trained workforce``

                                                                                                                                                                         - Wayne Kindiak - South East Construction