4. Consider making a complaint to the Ontario Labour Relations Board

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Employment and Work - Unions in the workplace
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Ontario Labour Relations Board
Law Society of Ontario

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What can I do if my union won't help me?
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4. Consider making a complaint to the Ontario Labour Relations Board

If your union won't help you, you might be able to make a complaint to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (Labour Board). This is called making an application about the union's "duty of fair representation".

The "duty of fair representation"

The union does not have to do what you want. But they have to make their decisions in an honest and fair way.

They owe you what’s called a "duty of fair representation". This applies when you ask the union for help dealing with a problem you have with your employer that’s about rights in the collective agreement.

The law says that this means the union's decisions cannot be arbitrary, discriminatory, or in bad faith.

These are legal terms and it can be difficult to know if they apply to your situation.

Arbitrary

The union’s decision might be "arbitrary" if it does not consider what you want and what's best for workers covered by the collective agreement. Here are some examples:

  • The union representative ignores your complaint or refuses to meet with you.
  • The union representative accepts what the employer says without giving you a chance to say why you disagree.

Discriminatory

The union acts in a "discriminatory" way if they treat you differently than other workers. This could be for a reason that goes against your human rights.

For example, this includes treating you differently because of your:

  • race
  • religion
  • sex or gender
  • sexual orientation
  • age
  • physical or mental disability

But it also includes treating you differently for other reasons.

For example, it might be discriminatory if the union treats you differently than other workers who have the same complaint against your employer as you do.

But if the union has a good reason to treat you differently than the other workers, that’s not discriminatory. This might be the case if your situation is not exactly the same as theirs.

Bad faith

The union acts "in bad faith" if it makes a decision in a dishonest way or for personal reasons. Here are some examples of what it means to act in bad faith:

  • The union representative won't help you because you got a job that both of you applied for.
  • The union representative won't help you because you disagreed about things in the past or voted in different ways on union issues.

Union members rarely win at the Labour Board when they make complaints against their union. So try to get legal help if you’re thinking about making an application to the Labour Board.

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Reviewed: February 15, 2018

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