Why the CSN ?

One of the CSN’s major strengths lies in the autonomy of all its affiliated unions representing more than 300,000 members.

This autonomy stems primarily from the fact that at the CSN—unlike the situation existing in other labour organizations—local unions and their members are issued their own certification by la Commission des relations du travail (CRT). This certification is in fact the “legal document” that grants the union all of its powers, including the power to negotiate a collective agreement.

The autonomy of local unions and their members’ powers

The members of a union affiliated with the CSN are therefore fully empowered to genuinely control the policies and actions of their own unions. This means that they have:

  • the authority to decide the contents of the bargaining proposals, to make compromises or not regarding the foregoing in the course of negotiations, to accept or reject management’s offers, and accordingly, to decide to engage in job actions or not;
  • the power to ensure that the collective agreement is enforced afterwards (through grievances, arbitration or otherwise);
  • the power to determine the proportion of the union dues that will be put to the local union’s exclusive use and to decide what the money will be spent on;
  • the power to adopt and modify their own union’s constitution and by-laws;
  • the power to decide how to structure and run their union;
  • the power to elect their representatives, committee chairpersons, department stewards and delegates at different CSN meetings;
  • the power to decide on their union affiliation.
The bonds of solidarity

Although unions affiliated with the CSN enjoy considerable autonomy, unequalled anywhere else, this does not mean that they are isolated from one another.

In affiliating with the CSN, a union freely chooses to join with other groups of unionized workers. That is why it is said that CSN unions, though autonomous, are joined by bonds of solidarity.

This solidarity is primarily expressed by the fact that members and their unions are linked together in the following ways:

  • regionally: all CSN members within the same geographical area belong to a central council, regardless of their sector of economic activity;
  • professionally: members who work in the same sector of activities belong to a federation. The federation supplies its local unions throughout Québec with the services they require for negotiating and applying their collective agreements;
  • nationally: regardless of their professional or regional sector, all members belong to the CSN itself.

For each of these organizations, the ultimate decision-making power lies with the Convention, an assembly made up of representatives from all of their affiliated unions. Intermediary bodies composed of members elected by the rank and file are responsible for ensuring that the decisions ratified at the Convention are carried out and that the organization’s day-today operations run smoothly.

The professional defence fund

The CSN’s professional defence fund (FDP) is one of the many forms of union solidarity that characterizes the CSN.

Section 11 of the fund’s By-Laws states that: “an affiliated union is the sole authority that can decide, by way of a secret ballot vote, to call a strike.”

The weekly benefits paid by the FDP to the employees involved in a labour dispute are $215 after the second week of the dispute ($220 as of March 1, 2009, and $225 as of March 1, 2010).

Any union activist who is discharged or suspended due to their union activities is also entitled to receive benefits from the FDP, as of the 1st day of their disciplinary sanction.

The CSN professional defence fund also covers:

  • costs arising from any legal proceedings taken against a member or an affiliated union;
  • a special support payment to the Union involved in a dispute to help pay for strike-related expenses. The amount of this weekly support payment is proportional to the number of Union members:
    • up to 25 members: $200;
    • 26 to 50 members: $400;
    • 51 to 250 members: $400 + $4
    • per member for each member between the 51st and the 250th member;
    • 251 to 500 members: $1,200 + $3
    • per member for each member between the 251st and the 500th member;
    • 501 members and more: $1,950 + $2 per additional member from the 501st.
Services offered by the CSN

The CSN is indisputably the best equipped central labour body in Quebec in the area of giving members the services they may require.

Through its 27 regional offices across the province and its professional federations, the CSN has some 700 employees providing members with the following services:

  • Unionization: helps workers establish and organize a Union and acquire their bargaining certificate;
  • Negotiation: preparation and negotiation of the collective agreement;
  • Arbitration: enforcement and compliance with the agreement after it is signed: interpretation of the agreement, grievances and arbitration;
  • Social legislation: defence of members in front of various administrative tribunals: work accidents, employment insurance, etc.;
  • Education: union training on all kinds of practical subjects provided to members;
  • Legal: a team of attorneys specializing in labour law, exclusively serving the CSN;
  • Occupational health and safety / environment: engineers specializing in occupational health and safety and work organization problems, as well as health specialists;
  • Communications/Information: advisors who produce leaflets, fliers, newspapers and other publications, including Perspectives CSN and the CSN’s online newsletters, advertisements, press releases; and, who organize press conferences and who are responsible for csn.qc.ca, etc.;
  • Mobilization: helps Unions who encounter difficulties at the bargaining table to make the most of their leverage and clout vis-à-vis their employer;
  • Research: actuaries who support your work in connection with pension plan matters; seasoned economists who search for and analyze the information necessary to understand the situation of a given company or the economic situation in general. They are also responsible for CSN statements and positions vis-à-vis legislation and policies that affect workers in their daily lives: housing, insurance, right to have a job, minimum wage, interest rates, etc.;
  • Status of women: raising people’s awareness about the particular problems experienced by women in the labour market;
  • Print shop;
  • Documentation Centre;
  • Audit and accounting department;
  • Distribution and mail.

N.B.: in contrast to other union organizations, all these services are included in the dues that members pay.