FOR THE UNIONIZED POSTDOCTORAL FELLOWS OF QUÉBEC UNIVERSITIES
Polytechnique - U Laval - U de Sherbrooke - U de Montréal - UQAR - Mcgill U
Unionized workers have the benefit of a collective agreement which regulates their individual employment contract; they have the right to be represented by the union in dealings with their employer; and they are part of a movement extending from their workplace to the national level. These are three additional advantages of unionization.
Because it applies to a group of workers, a collective agreement must serve their common aspirations and needs.
To achieve this goal, an agreement:
- Is the outcome of a process involving the participation of concerned workers and does not enter into force until it is ratified by them (for details, see Drawing up a collective agreement);
- Contains measures ensuring fair treatment for all and preventing arbitrariness and favouritism;
- Lays down working conditions in writing and in detail so that they may be known to all interested parties and applied in a fair and uniform manner.
The collective agreement governs individual contracts, which may not offer less than what the agreement provides for. Furthermore, once signed, neither the agreement nor individual contracts may be modified unilaterally by the employer.
In the event where their labour rights are not respected, unionized workers do not have to defend themselves on their own. They can count on the support and resources of their union.
In this capacity, the union:
- Advises workers regarding the procedure to follow in order to resolve a workplace conflict;
- Appoints union representatives to guide workers through the process and, where needed, to accompany them to meetings with the employer;
- Offers technical and legal support in preparing and presenting a grievance (a grievance is an official complaint relative to the application or interpretation of a collective agreement);
- Takes on a grievance on behalf of the aggrieved worker(s) if circumstances so require, in particular when the said grievance is brought to arbitration before the Commission des relations du travail.
All of the above mentioned forms of support are connected to the unions’ duty of representation, an obligation enshrined in the Labour Code (source here, answers C-2 and C-3, in French only).
THE UNION MOVEMENT
The union movement is a network of local, provincial and national unions which form various kinds of alliances, most notably federations and central bodies acting on the provincial or the national level (for details, see Union network, from local to national).
Organized in this manner, the union movement:
- Enables workers to make their voices heard on the various levels where decisions impacting them are made, from the workplace to government;
- Allows workers to express their demands regarding a broad array of topics that concern them, ranging from their working conditions to socio-economic issues.
Remember that unions’ objectives are the protection and development of the economic, social and educational interests of their members (source here, answer B-1, in French only). Therefore, the unions’ role is not limited to negotiating and managing collective agreements. It also consists of voicing the social and professional claims of workers whenever it is appropriate to do so.