CUPE Hospitals

CUPE Hospitals

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) is Canada's largest health care union.

How does my workplace become unionized with CUPE?

Information on dues, process of forming a union, privacy, employer actions, and what Local Autonomy means for you.

A percentage of not less than 40% of the employees must sign union membership cards, then an application for certification is submitted to the Ontario Labour Relations Board. One week later the Ontario Labour Relations Board holds a secret ballot vote at your workplace. In order for the union to be successful fifty percent plus one of the employees who cast a ballot must vote in favour of the union.


How is my privacy protected?

A Labour Board Officer holds the vote and this officer ensures that there is no interference by the employer or the union to intimidate or influence the vote. The voting process is confidential and is similar to Provincial and Federal elections. No one will ever know how you voted and at no time during the process will your employer know whether or not you have signed a union membership card. The secrecy of the vote and card signer information is protected by law.

Can the employer fire employees, cut their hours of work or discipline them because they decided to join a union?

The right to join a union and to be represented by a union is protected by law. An employer is not permitted to fire employees because they have chosen to engage in union activity nor to discriminate against them in any other way because of their union activity. Employers are still permitted to run their business as they have in the past, so long as they do not change their treatment of an employee because of the employee’s union activity.

What happens after we become unionized?

You will elect members from your own group to represent you on a bargaining committee. The bargaining committee will be comprised of your members, Local representation and a CUPE representative. The bargaining committee will negotiate a first collective agreement for your bargaining unit and this collective agreement will be brought back to your bargaining unit to be ratified. Only your bargaining unit will vote on your collective agreement.

Why should I join a union?

The most basic reason for joining a union is the strength and protection generated when employees act together with a common voice and in a common direction. Without a union, each employee must negotiate their own wages and working conditions with the employer. In reality this means you take whatever the employer offers and you have no remedy for situations where you feel you have been treated unjustly. When a union is certified to represent employees, all employees bargain together through the union. By acting together employees have some real bargaining power: the employer must consider seriously a bargaining proposal which comes from all of its employees at once and not just from one of its employees at a particular time. In addition, there is a procedure for remedying situations of injustice: grievances can be filed and, where the union feels the employer has violated the terms and conditions of the collective agreement, taken to arbitration.

Unionized employees have much better protection than non-unionized employees in situations of termination or severance of employment. Specifically, collective agreements typically restrict the right of an employer to discipline or discharge an employee to situations where it can prove “just cause”. An employee who has been fired without “just cause” can file a grievance and obtain reinstatement and compensation through the grievance and arbitration process. Non-unionized employees have no such right, since their employer can fire them at any time by giving them reasonable notice or pay in lieu of notice.

What are union dues and what are they used for?

With CUPE you pay no dues until you have a first Collective Agreement. CUPE dues are determined by the Local itself. We believe that a percentage solution is the most fair and equitable and part-time employees would only pay the percentage of hours actually worked. Your union dues are tax deductible. CUPE has no additional application fees.

CUPE dues are a minimum of .85%, which is paid to the National Union to support services provided to local unions. Most local unions have a dues level around 1.5%. The amount above .85% is retained by the local union to pay its expenses (e.g. negotiating committee expenses).

The national per capita (.85%) goes to pay for the many services the National provides to you, such as an experienced staff representative, education, research, and communications specialists, Worker’s Compensation, Health and Safety and Pay Equity specialists as well as legal staff.

Who runs the union?

Local unions in CUPE have democratic control over their activities. Members of the local union decide, at regular local meetings, on issues that are important to the local and the membership. The local union itself is run by officers that are elected by the members of the local union.

What is usually contained in a collective agreement?

A collective agreement can contain any terms and conditions that are agreed upon by the union and the employer. Typically collective agreements contain provisions for rates of pay, shift premiums, vacations, statutory holidays, seniority, job postings, job security, benefit plans, uniform allowances, sick leave, leaves of absence, access to personnel files, disciplinary procedures and the grievance procedure to enforce the rights contained in the collective agreement.

Local unions of CUPE are encouraged to determine what conditions of employment are important to them, so that they can be included in a collective agreement. In addition, local unions receive guidance from experienced representatives and access to information about working conditions in other similar workplaces. In addition, CUPE provides specialized expertise in research, health and safety, education, job evaluation and legal matters to assist local unions in achieving their goals.

A collective agreement does not take away an employer’s right to manage its business. The employer still makes management decisions with respect to how the Township will be run, but it must do so in accordance with the rights of employees as contained in the collective agreement.

What does seniority mean?

Seniority recognizes that employees should receive consideration for the length of time they have worked for their employer. In most collective agreements, seniority is determined from the date of original hiring with the employer. One of the main purposes of seniority is to provide a fair and objective way of determining who should be entitled to a promotion when a job becomes vacant. Provided both employees are qualified for the job, it makes sense that the employee who has spent longer with the employer should be entitled to preference over a less senior employee. Without this kind of objective determination, the employer has a free hand to choose whomever it wants and can choose whomever it likes better, without any consideration of their relative abilities and length of employment.

Will we be entitled to Pay Equity?

When a group becomes unionized the law requires that the pay equity plan be revisited. The employer is required to establish a joint union and management pay equity committee; the union selects the union members and the employer selects its own members. CUPE will provide the local a pay equity specialist to work with the union committee to ensure all employees are treated in a fair and equitable manner.

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The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) is Canada's largest health care union.