The value of collective agreements

Arbitrators are factoring in the loss of collective agreement benefits when awarding wrongful dismissal damages
By Michael Smyth
|Canadian Employment Law Today

Most human resources professionals would agree unionized employees have different protections in the workplace than non-unionized employees. The trade union acts as agent on behalf of employees in the bargaining unit and brings substantial resources and expertise to the bargaining table when it is time to negotiate the terms and conditions of employment.

Union organizers often argue having a knowledgeable and strong bargaining agent representing one’s interests with an employer constitutes a significant benefit in and of itself. On the other hand, many take the position there are substantial trade-offs involved with working in a unionized workplace. Leaving aside those trade-offs, are there benefits or protections generally afforded to unionized employees that may not exist for non-unionized employees? Can those benefits and protections be quantified?

Generally, collective agreements entrench seniority rights, providing greater benefits to employees with more seniority or service with the employer. Senior employees get priority in areas such as overtime opportunities, work schedules, vacation schedules, vacation time, promotion opportunities and sick credits.