Union FAQ

Some Frequently-Asked Questions about unions and the Union of Northern Workers...

What is a Union?

A Union is an association of workers formed to improve and protect working conditions through collective bargaining.  The Union negotiates wages, hours of work, job security and other working conditions for members.

The Union of Northern Workers represents more than 5,500 members in 23 Locals. We are a component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). The APSAC is Canada’s largest public sector and is Union made up of 18 smaller components. It provides services to the UNW. 

See a video about the organization of the PSAC.

What does the Union do?

Negotiates Collective Agreements

A Collective Agreement is a contract between the Union (employees) and the employer. This contract sets out the terms and conditions of employment including wages, benefits, hours of work and all the rules that apply to the employer and employees. Without a collective agreement, employers are free to change working terms and conditions at will.
 
Prior to the expiry of a Collective Agreement, an "input call" is sent to members via their local Executive. Through their local, members can submit proposals to change the Collective Agreement. They can also submit their name for election to the negotiating team. In the end, the members have the final say on Collective Agreements. By casting a ballot in a "Ratification Vote" they indicate whether they accept or reject a tentative Collective Agreement.

Provides Representation

When a dispute occurs between a member and the Employer or when members are unsure of what they are entitled to, they can ask the Union for assistance. The member discusses the issue with their Shop Steward or another Union Officer. Once there is a clear understanding of the problem, the Union Officer can advise the member of possible options. These can include discussing the issue with Management, filing a grievance and pursuing it through arbitration, or filing a complaint with an outside agency like a human rights commission. The Union is required to review each case and determine whether filing a grievance is justified.

Protects Members' Rights

Your Union and your shop stewards also assist you by:
  • Encouraging improvements in working conditions and /or pursuing Health and Safety Issues and the employer's compliance with current Health and Safety legislation; 
  • Ensuring that employers follow the disciplinary guidelines for members subject to discipline. (i.e. progressive discipline);
  • Fighting discrimination and discriminatory behaviors.

Where do my dues go?

Union dues are collected from all bargaining unit employees.  The employer collects dues through the payroll system and provides them to the union.  Dues provide the Union with the operating funds necessary to provide services to members. Dues go directly to the Public Service Alliance of Canada, who in turn provides services to the UNW. ThePSAC retains a portion and the remainder is provided to the UNW. The dues enable the UNW and PSAC together to meet costs for:
  • Contract Negotiations
  • Membershiup Service and Research Officers
  • Grievance and Adjudication Officers
  • Classification Officers
  • Education Officers and training programs
  • Health and Safety Officers
  • Negotiation, Arbitration and Legal Costs
  • Operational Costs, including facilities, support staff, communications.
 
A portion of the dues is rebated to each Local so that they have funds to operate the Local, send their members for special education courses events.

How do I become a union member?

All bargaining unit employees (non-management) in workplaces governed by UNW contracts workplaces are automatically covered by the Collective Agreement.   All these employees have union dues deducted by the employer. 
 
But all employees are not automatically members of the union.  
 
To join the union, an employee must a Membership Application Form and submit it to the UNW Yellowknife Office.  Members are issued a UNW Membership Card and a PSAC Membership Card.  The  UNW membership card should arrive within one month of submitting the application form. 
 
Contact the Membership Secretary with any questions regarding membership.  
 
For complete information on union membership and benefits, see the Join the UNW page.  

Why Should I Become a Union Member?

If you sign a membership application you become a full member of the Union. You have the right to:
  • Have input into contract negotiations
  • Vote on motions, bargaining and strike votes
  • Attend Union meetings or training courses 
  • Receive UNW price discounts on goods and services
  • Become a union officer on the local, regional or UNW executive

 

What happens if I don't become a union member?

If you do not sign a membership application card, you remain a "Rand Deductee." Rand deductees must pay union dues but do not enjoy the benefits of membership. Rand deductees are not entitled hold union office or attend local meetings.  

The term "Rand Deductee" comes from a Court Decision which says that because all employees enjoy  the benefits of a Collective Agreement negotiated by a Union—such as wages, annual and sick leave, etc – all employees must financially support the Union even if they choose not to be a member.