The Positive Effects of Unionization

Human Resources Professionals are very familiar with the negative stereotypes directed towards unions and their members.  Some common utterances heard frequently, are that; Union members are lazy; Unions are no longer needed, as we have better employment laws now; Unions are only in it for themselves; Unions are inflexible and only add expenses to the employer’s costs, etc.

Like any sweeping stereotypical statements, there may be some truth to the above, but it is not always the absolute truth.

Unionization helps at the individual level, the organizational level, and the national level. The following article highlights the many benefits of unions.

Click here to read the article.

Research shows that:

  • Countries that have unions have better economic, social, and environmental policies.
  • The collective bargaining process contributes to higher productivity at a national level
  • There is less income inequality in countries that are unionized

The next time someone is spouting the negative aspects of unionization, add some positive statements into the discussion and remember what unions have accomplished for the worker, organizations, and the countries in which they operate.  You don’t have to like unions, but you have to respect them for what they do and what they have done.

Discussion Questions

  1. Identify 5 ways unions can have a positive effect on organizations
  2. Identify 5 ways unions can have a positive effect on society
  3. Identify 5 ways unions can have a negative effect on organizations
  4. Identify 5 ways unions can have a positive effect on society




The Impact of Unions

All HR professionals working in union and non-union sectors should be aware of what is going on in the working world around them – Being aware is always an asset!

Take a look at the unionization rates in Canada for the past 16 years.  The trend line is constantly dropping and the number of unionized jobs is dropping with it; with the exception of slight increases in 2010 and 2013.

Click here to read Labour Canada’s Statistics on Unionization.

An increase of 1.5 %  in 2013 may not be much, but if Unifor, Canada’s largest union has its way, the trend of decreasing unionization rates is going to change and begin increasing.

What is Unifor planning to do?  Unifor is committing 10% of its revenues or $10 million dollars to organization drives.  In marketing terms, $10 million for growing their business.

Click here to read an article on Unifor’s Organizational Marketing Drive. 

$10 million is a big number!  Are Canadian employers ready for that kind of union marketing push?  Only time will tell if Unifor can reverse the trend and increase union membership by significant levels in Canada.  Unifor already has the organization skills, the process, and the knowledge on how to organize workplaces and now that they have committed the economic resources to the vision as well.

As mentioned at the beginning of this blog, HR professionals need to be aware and alert of this possible change.

Discussion Questions

  1. What type of industries do you think Unifor will  try to organize?
  2. What types of  methods do you think they will enlist to engage new members?
  3. How do you think Canadian employers will respond to this type of union marketing?



Conflict in Labour Relations – What can be done?

Violence erupts in France over proposed workplace layoffs Air France  – According to The Guardian on October 6, 2015, Air France workers rip shirts from executives after airline cuts 2,900 jobs.

 Click here to see full article

Grievances, strikes, and lockout – when does conflict end and violence begin?

Many Human Resources and Industrial Relations professionals freely admit that union management relations, or more commonly known as Labour Relations, is based on an adversarial relationship.

As HR professionals we must ponder what that term “adversarial relationship” really means.

Does it simply mean the parties, union and management, have a different outlook? Or does it mean there is a fundamental difference in values. Or even more simply, are both parties just inherently selfish and greedy, and that is why there is tension and conflict!

Most industrial countries have well developed labour laws; such as, certification, grievance, arbitration, conciliation and mediation. These laws are specifically designed to reduce the conflict between the parties.

With all these safe guards, why does conflict cross the line and become violence – as in the Air France case, where seemingly normal workers resorted to ripping the shirts of their bosses’ backs when massive layoffs were announced.

When a society sees acts of violence like this, the automatic response is to condemn it, and rightfully so. However, once that is done, the society must ask themselves what is the true cause?  It is 2015, we are 216 years pass the French Revolution, 175 years pass the Industrial Revolution, and yet we are still erupting into violence in the streets over work.

It really makes you ask yourself, “Hmm, where in the world is the relationship in Labour Relations going?”

Discussion Questions

  1. What can employers and unions do to avoid these issues and fundamentally alter this adversarial relationship?
  2. What is a HR department to do with the employees – discipline the employees or press criminal charges?











Winning or Losing in Labour Negotiations

The Art of Hearing in Labour Negotiations


Is there a difference between hearing and listening? Yes, there is; especially in labour contract negotiations?

Hearing is a physical action that takes place whether we are conscious of it or not.

Listening is different, listening occurs when we place cognitive meaning on what we have heard.  To be successful in labour negotiations. listening is one activity you must excel at.

A very wise executive coach, Kent Osbourne once taught me that “listening is a decision” not a skill.   When I am at the negotiation table I make an extreme effort to listen. Making a decision to listen during negotiations has been instrumental through my collective bargaining career.

Ken Godevenos gives some great advice on the art of collective bargaining. Mr. Godevenos stresses the point; what is said at the negotiation table is not always what it seems.

My motto is, an excellent negotiator must become a master of “what is not said” and listen to what message is truly being delivered.  If you can do that you will be well on your way to success at the negotiation table.

Discussion Questions

  1. Name five things a Human Resources Professional can do to improve their success in labour contract negotiations.
  2. How would you specifically try to improve your listening?
  3. How would you practise listening for upcoming negotiations?


Learning the Rules and Language of Labour Relations

The world of Labour Relations (LR) can often be an intimidating place for Human Resources (HR) Professionals.  The intimidation stems from many HR Professionals not yet being exposed to the process nor the language of LR.

The Government of New Brunswick has provided a great overview of what they call Industrial Relations (IR). You will see, in Canada, IR and LR are used synonymously to represent a unionized workplace.

It takes a novice HR Professional through the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about LR such as:

  • Certification process
  • Collective agreements
  • Grievances and arbitration
  • The role of the provincial labour boards

Click here to read the full resource.

Of course this is a brief review, but it is a great starting point.

Once an HR Professional has learned the basics of the LR process they can turn their attention to the Language of LR.  Luckily the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) has developed another excellent resource.

Click here to read the CUPE Glossary of LR terms. 

All HR Professionals should familiarize themselves with the basic process and the terms of LR.  This is a fantastic starting point in understanding the complex world of LR.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why would knowing LR terms be beneficial to a new HR Professional?
  2. If you had to give a 5 minute presentation on the LR terms where would you start?
  3. What terms would you prioritize?