Home / Forming a union (English) / Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How can we get our employer to respect us?

One of the main reasons for joining a CSN union is to get respect from our employers. This is all the more important given that we generally spend a large part of our lives at work. A great many workers join a union out of a simple desire to be treated with respect and dignity.

Eliminating unfairness, favouritism and discrimination, and putting an end to employers’ arbitrary decisions concerning such issues as promotions, job vacancies, layoffs, dismissals, work schedules and vacation schedules, are other reasons that commonly motivate workers to join a CSN union.

Why the CSN?

Simply because the CSN has a long history and tradition of solidarity and democracy that are unequalled in other labour organizations, and also because these values are ultimately the most effective in enabling workers to achieve their goals.

Are our working conditions respected?

From the moment a petition for certification is filed with the Ministry of Labour, employers do not have the right to alter any working conditions (salary, work schedules, job descriptions, duties, etc.) for their employees without the written consent of the union (s. 59).

How do employers usually react to the prospect of a new union?

It is of course difficult to predict every single possible reaction. As a rule, however, most employers do not welcome the arrival of a union, and some try to prevent staff members from joining by taking certain steps or spreading false information with one goal in mind: scaring their employees.

Some employers resort to pressure tactics such as harassing or imposing disciplinary measures on the employees they believe to be the most active in organizing the union—such actions are illegal. Employers have also been known to threaten to close down the company if a CSN union gets in.

It is also quite common for employers to use a variety of means designed to pave the way for some other union to get in simply in order to sow discord among the staff even though this is forbidden under section 12 of the Quebec Labour Code.

What exactly are these 'other unions'?

Most of the time they are independent unions, meaning that they are not affiliated with a central labour body.

Many of these company unions are actually controlled by the employers themselves through intermediaries. This means that when the time comes for them to negotiate a labour contract, these employers are in fact bargaining with themselves! This obviously results in collective agreements riddled with poor working conditions.

Employers are well aware that CSN unions are controlled entirely by their members and that the CSN will never prevent them from demanding or fighting for better working conditions and standards of living. On the contrary, the CSN always supports any of their decisions arrived at democratically—a fact that strengthens members’ solidarity and boosts their chances of reaching their goals.

Do employers know who has joined?

Section 36 of the Quebec Labour Code states the following: “The fact that a person belongs to an association of employees shall not be revealed by anyone during the certification proceedings except to the Commission des relations du travail (CRT) officials named to the dossier and who are obliged to keep this information confidential.”

Are we free to join the union?

Absolutely! Section 13 of the Quebec Labour Code forbids « the use of intimidation or threats to induce anyone to become, refrain from becoming or cease to be a member » of a union.

Does my employer have the right to fire me?

Section 14 of the Quebec Labour Code strictly prohibits employers from firing any employees who have signed membership cards or taken part in union activities. If they fire one of their employees anyway, the employers must prove to the satisfaction of the commissioner (a judge) that the dismissal was carried out with “just and sufficient cause”, other than the employee’s union activities or pro-union sympathies.

If employers fail to prove this, they are obliged to reinstate the employee in the very same job within eight days of the commissioner’s decision, and they must pay that employee’s full salary retroactively to the day he or she was fired. Remember: any complaint under section 15 must be filed with the Commission des relations du travail (CRT) within thirty days of an employee’s being fired or subjected to a disciplinary measure.

What conditions are necessary for certification?
  1. To file a petition for certification, the union must have membership cards signed by more than 50% of the group of employees it is seeking to represent (s. 21).
  2. The group must be an “appropriate bargaining unit” as defined by the Labour Code. Determining what is an “appropriate unit” in each particular instance is based on many previous cases (jurisprudence). It is best to examine the situation thoroughly with a CSN organizer beforehand in order to find out who exactly is part of this “appropriate unit” and how many membership cards must be signed to obtain the required majority.
  3. Employees must each sign a membership card and pay the first union dues of $2.00 out of their own pockets (s. 36.1c).
Union Dues
Once a union is certified, the cost of affiliating with the CSN amounts to 0.72% of a worker’s regular gross salary. This amount applies from the moment the union is certified until the first collective agreement is signed or until 180 days have elapsed, whichever event happens first.

Afterwards, the total amount of dues depends on two factors:

  1. the amounts set by the central council and by the federation with which the union is affiliated;
  2. the amount that belongs to the local union, as determined by members at the general meeting.

As a rule, CSN members pay union dues varying from 1.5 to 2% of their regular gross salaries. This percentage does not apply to premiums or overtime pay.