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Working With a Union Contract vs. Working Non-Union

Below is a list of general advantages enjoyed by an employee working under a union contract as opposed to an employee working in a non-union position. Your specific contract may have additional advantages too.

A legal document that defines hours of work, wages, and other conditions of employment; establishes procedures for the resolution of disputes. Contract No Contract. Employer’s rules and policies may be changed at the employer’s discretion or whim.
Union wages are negotiated with your employer and are guaranteed and spelled out in your contract Wages Employer sets wages. The law requires payment of minimum wage under certain conditions.
Used to determine, among other things, placement on wage schedule, layoff procedure, vacation and holiday scheduling, overtime assignments, job bidding, shift scheduling. Seniority The employer’s choice whether to use seniority.
For just cause only, and there are in most cases steps of progressive discipline. Discipline YOU’RE FIRED . . .Employer makes decision about discipline at will.
The contract provides a structured procedure for handling disputes in the workplace which are in violation of that contract. Grievances The employer may provide an “open door” policy to discuss disputes, but the employee often finds the door has been shut and locked.
The contract provides for arbitration of grievances, when appropriate, at the Union’s expense, not yours. Arbitration Any legal action brought by an employee against an employer must be paid for by the employee.
Benefits negotiated by the Union, most often with employer contributions to premiums. Health/Welfare
Not required under law. Employer’s option.
Paid vacation negotiated according to length of service with the employer (seniority). Vacations Some basic legal rights to vacation, but typically vacations given, paid or unpaid, at the employer’s whim.
Holidays above and beyond legal holidays (i.e., Christmas, Canada Day, etc.) with pay negotiated by the Union. Holidays The employer must observe certain holidays by law, but is not obligated to pay the employee for these holidays.
Paid sick leave, short-term or long-term disability coverage. Sick Leave Sick leave paid at employer’s discretion.
Negotiated leaves which go beyond laws, with return to work guarantees. Leaves of Absence/
Parental Leaves
The employer must grant only those leaves mandated by law and only under strict guidelines.
Protected by seniority. Return-to-work rights specified in contract.
No protection for long-term workers. In fact, sometimes layoffs start with long-term, higher paid workers.
Language that protects the Union members in case of sale, merger, take-over or closing of business. Protection NONE.
Employees in small companies have same rights and protections as those in big companies, as negotiated in the contract.
Rights and protections legislated by size of company, number of employees, cash assets, etc. under provincial and federal law.
Small portion of entire wages and benefits paid to Union for representation. Dues No dues – no rights! (But maybe you’ll get a turkey at Thanksgiving!)
One of the best aspects of being a union member is having a voice in your workplace!