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Organizing and Belonging to Unions

Unions are organizations that act on behalf of workers for improved wages, benefits, and working conditions.

The Alberta Labour Relations Code, administered by the Alberta Labour Relations Board, oversees:

  • How unions are formed
  • How a worker can join a union
  • The rights of employers, workers, and unions in unionized workplaces
  • How you can access a grievance procedure if you feel your union’s collective agreement or rights on the job have been violated

Under this Code, most Alberta workers have the right to form or join unions and collectively bargain with their employer. However, some Alberta workers are not covered by this Code—for example, separate labour laws cover federal and provincial workers and police officers, among others.

The Canada Labour Code addresses union participation for federal government workers and those who work in federally regulated industries.

Depending on your job, you may have to join a union within a certain timeframe. For example, to work in “closed shops,” which are quite common in the construction industry, you must belong to that shop’s union before you will be allowed to work there.

Forming or joining a union

Workers interested in working collectively for labour relations purposes can either create a new union or join an existing union. To create a new union, workers must prepare a constitution and bylaws and file them with the

Labour Relations Board. The Labour Relations Code says how workers can ask for a democratic vote in their workplace to certify or remove a union as bargaining agent.

No employer or union can take action against you or other workers who try to join, form, certify, or remove a union.

Paying union dues

Unions can collect dues from their members. If you agree in writing to have dues collected, the Code lets your employer collect them and pass them on to the union.

On religious grounds, you can ask the Labour Relations Board for permission not to belong to a union or to pay union dues (but you must pay an amount equal to the dues to a registered charity).

“If I am on strike or locked out, am I still an employee? Can I get my job back once the strike or lockout is over?”

Yes. Although not entitled to pay, you can’t be fired for being on strike or locked out by your employer. When the strike or lockout ends, you are entitled to get your job back.

Responding to other labour relations issues

You can contact the Labour Relations Board about other labour relations issues, including:

  • Unfair labour practices
  • Strikes and lockouts
  • Collective bargaining
  • Mediation to settle labour–management disputes

The Board publishes A Guide to Alberta’s Labour Relations Laws, which helps people understand the basics of Alberta’s labour relations laws and the role the Labour Relations Board plays in them.

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