Frequently Asked Questions

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Problems at work

The answer varies depending on where you live. For example, if you're a worker in British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Québec, Saskatchewan or Yukon, or are covered by federal employment law, the regular workweek is 40 hours a week. While in New Brunswick, there's no standard workweek and no limit on how long you can be required to work. The other provinces fall somewhere in between. Often there are exclusions and rules about whether a worker qualifies for paid overtime. If you're entitled to overtime pay, it's usually calculated at one and a half times your regular wage rate for every hour worked. Unionized workers often have better conditions for overtime work in their collective agreements. Contact us to find out more.
A union contract is the best way to gain more control over your work schedule. Most contracts have rules about how and when schedules are determined. Often workers who have been with the employer for a long time are given preference for hours of work.

Workers have the right to a healthy and safe workplace. Requirements are laid out in workplace health and safety laws, which vary depending on your province and jurisdiction. Generally, workers in Canada have the right to know about workplace hazards and the right to participate in decisions that affect their health and safety at work.

Unionized work sites generally have health and safety requirements that are greater than the minimum legislation. If you need more information about joining a union and/or health and safety regulations in your own province or territory, be sure to get in touch.

Many companies will misclassify employees as independent contractors in order to avoid basic employment and labour standards. This is a good deal for the company because it can ignore rules such as maximum hours of work, overtime, vacation pay, holidays, and termination or severance pay. Employers also skip contributing their share of Employment Insurance (EI), Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Workers Compensation premiums.

The real tests to figure out whether you're an employee involve an analysis of whether the company controls your work, who owns the tools and equipment for the work and whether the worker has the chance of profit or risk of loss as a result of his or her job. CUPW has brought the cases of many "independent contractors" to labour boards and tribunals. In most cases, the workers were recognized as employees or dependent contractors. We can help you determine whether you're an employee in disguise. Contact us for more information.

There's definitely something you can do. All thirteen jurisdictions in the country have some type of equal pay requirements in human rights legislation, employment standards legislation, and/or pay equity legislation. We can help you evaluate your options. Call us if you think women who are doing similar work in your workplace are getting paid less than men.

Unions are also a great way to reduce the difference between what men and women get paid. Women earn 94% as much as their male counterparts in unionized jobs. The figure for women in non-union work is a measly 79%.

Yes, you should be getting vacation. In Canada, nearly every worker has the right to an annual paid vacation. In most jurisdictions, any worker who has been working at their job for more than one year is entitled to two weeks of paid vacation each year. Vacation pay is usually set at 4% of your earnings in the year you have the right to a paid vacation. Also, in general, laws require that vacation pay be delivered no later than the day before the vacation is to begin. Call us for more information.

Organizing a union in your workplace

Workers in Canada are free to join a union and participate in union activities by law. It's against the law for employers or supervisors to interfere in your decision to join a union. If your boss makes threats, promises or discriminates, we can go to the labour board to protect your rights.
Your employer will never see the union membership cards. By law, these cards are entirely confidential.

What about union dues?

When CUPW members pay dues we are pooling our resources in order to secure real protections and better working conditions in our workplaces. These dues cover costs such as negotiating a union contract that will regularly improve your wages and working conditions, grievances in case your employer violates your rights, communication from the union on key issues and union education for members.
CUPW members do not pay dues until they have a signed collective agreement. This first contract must be approved by the members in your workplace.
CUPW dues are directly linked to your hourly wage. CUPW members pay approximately three hours worth of wages per month, averaged over the month for those of us who work on commission or salary.

Being a union member

A union gives you a voice and strength at work. One of the key things a union can do for you is to negotiate with your employer for improved wages and working conditions in a union contract. Every few years, representatives from your workplace, the union and the employer will meet to bargain a new collective agreement. These contracts help address the problems in your workplace. What is difficult for one person to do is much easier when done collectively.
Over 97% of all collective agreements are negotiated without a strike or lock-out. Strikes are the exception, not the rule. Only you and your co-workers make the decision about whether or not to strike.
First you can get involved through helping organize a union in your workplace. We'll help you every step of the way. Call us for more information. Once you've joined CUPW, you can become involved in many different ways. CUPW is made strong by a network of active and involved members. You can choose to run in the election to be the local president, secretary-treasurer, shop steward or health and safety representative. You can participate in union education sessions. Or you can participate by attending and speaking at your local union meetings.