Frequently asked questions

What can a union do for me?
The track record is clear.  Workers who are members of a union receive higher wages than people without a union, enjoy better benefits and have more rights.  Their workplaces are safer, they’re less likely to suffer harassment or discrimination and they get more respect. This is what we call the “union advantage”.  All workers are protected by employment standards laws, but unionized workers are able to use collective bargaining to negotiate greater protections and improved wages and working conditions.

What does signing a union card mean?
It means you are applying for membership in the Canadian Union of Public Employees.  It also means you want CUPE to represent you in collective bargaining with your Employer.

Can I be fired for signing a union card?
It is illegal for an employer to fire or suspend anyone for signing a union card or for being part of an organizing drive.  The Saskatchewan Employment Act puts the “onus” on an employer who fires or suspends a worker during an organizing drive to prove that union membership or activity had absolutely no part in the decision.  If the employer can’t prove this, the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board will order the employee back to work with compensation for lost pay.

How much are the union dues?
The minimum dues rate is 0.85% of regular wages. After that, CUPE members vote to decide how much their Local will collect above the minimum, and how their Local will spend the funds. Union dues are not applied to overtime or other premium pay. Dues are also 100 percent tax deductible.

Will we have to go on strike?
In CUPE, the local union members are the only people who decide on a strike. Educating parents, holding rallies, handing out information to the public, and making links with groups in the community are some other ways our union can show our power and influence. Striking is always a last resort, and is extremely rare. The vast majority of CUPE settlements are reached without a single day of job action.  However, in the event the Local membership determines a strike is necessary, CUPE has you covered with $300 per week strike pay (which is non-taxable).

I would like a union in my workplace, but I don’t want to create any waves.
Every employee has a legal and constitutional right to join a union of their choice. Under The Saskatchewan Employment Act, it is illegal for an Employer to interfere with, restrain, intimidate, threaten, discriminate against an employee that seeks to bring a union into their workforce.  It is also against the law for an Employer to question workers about their support for a union. The union certification process is confidential, so Employers are not entitled to know who signed cards.  Votes are held by secret ballot.

My Employer says the union can’t guarantee increased wages or better working conditions.  Is that true?
It’s true that increased wages, improved benefits and working conditions have to be negotiated with the Employer after the union is certified by the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board.  The statistics are clear though – on average unionized workers are paid significantly higher wages (over $5.00 per hour) than their non-unionized counterparts.  Unionized workers are also more likely to have a pension plan and to enjoy better benefits and paid leaves.

The bottom line is that workers have more power to improve their working conditions when they come together collectively as a union.  With CUPE’s professional representation and research support, a union will certainly improve your working conditions by bargaining for fair wages, better benefits, paid leaves, predictable schedules, protection from arbitrary dismissal and fair and transparent policies that apply to everyone.

Can casual employees be part of the union?
Many CUPE Locals include casuals and relief staff along with full-time and part-time employees.  A union contract can set out fair rules for call-in work, and can give casual employees benefits. Many casuals really want a full-time job. A CUPE contract can set out a fair process so that casuals can move into vacant permanent or part-time jobs.

Why should we pay dues to the union?
Paying dues will give the Local access to all of CUPE’s services and benefits, like handling grievances at arbitration, educational programs, research, lawyers, communications specialists, job evaluation, human rights, health and safety experts, and professional staff. These funds ensure all CUPE members have the resources they need to improve their working conditions and wages. And union dues are 100% tax deductible.

Don’t unions just protect incompetent people?
The union can’t hire and fire.  That’s management’s role.  By law the union must represent its members fairly and without bias.  If someone isn’t doing their job it’s up to management, not the union, to make them shape up, and to follow a fair process of discipline.  Unions protect their members from arbitrary and discriminatory discipline.  That’s our job.

Will quality of care suffer if we unionize?
On the contrary, unionization results in better service, better care, and more public accountability. Having a union means emloyees have new resources to help us make the case for better funding, better work organization and workplace improvements. It also means workers are protected when they speak out about problems. Unions fight against cutbacks to save jobs but they’re also fighting to maintain (and improve) the quality of service. It’s the union members who see first hand how reduced services hurt the people they serve.

There are some things my Employer provides that I value.  Can we lose them if we form a union?
The opposite is true. Without a union, the employer can change your benefits or hours of work at any time. It’s against the law for employers to retaliate against the union by taking away what you have now. Having a union contract and bargaining for improvements is one way of securing the benefits you’ve gained so far.

My Employer is suggesting that CUPE is an outsider.  Is that true?
Workers who are treated unfairly contact CUPE to help them organize their workplace.  The union is not an outsider, but made up of workers wanting a stronger voice and greater say over their wages and working conditions.  Together, you and your co-workers are the union!