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B.C. adopts single-step certification for unions

April 7, 2022
By Talent Canada


(jekershner7/Getty Images)

British Columbia is adopting a single-step certification process for workers who want to unionize.

“The new single-step certification process will enable workers to join a union when a clear majority of employees indicate they want to, as is the case in jurisdictions such as Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and federally regulated workplaces,” the province said in a press release.

“Throughout this pandemic, we’ve seen that many people want to make their workplaces safer, provide more input to their work schedules and negotiate better wages and benefits, and they should be able to this without barriers,” said Harry Bains, Minister of Labour. “The current two-step system can lead to interference in organizing. Under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, workers who wish to collectively organize must not be impeded in any way.”

Current process

The current two-step system requires a minimum of 45 per cent of workers at a job site to sign membership cards and, once that threshold is reached, workers must then restate their preference for a union through an additional vote – even if a clear majority of workers has already chosen to join the union.

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“It’s at this stage, between the certification application and the vote, that interference can often occur,” the province said in a press release.

New process

Under the new amendments:

  • If 55 per cent or more of employees in a workplace indicate their intent to unionize by signing union membership cards, a union will be certified and no further vote is required.
  • If between 45 per cent and 55 per cent of employees sign union membership cards, a second step consisting of a secret ballot vote is required for certification.

“The nature of work has changed, with growing wealth inequality and new types of precarious and gig work,” Bains said. “Workers want to be valued and they want to have a say. This is about giving workers the choice to speak with a collective voice for fair working conditions.”

Changes for construction sector unions

The amendments to the Labour Relations Code will also affect construction sector unions by allowing workers annual opportunities to switch unions if they are unhappy with their current representation, the province said.

Current rules can effectively prevent workers from changing unions for three years. The amendments recognize that individual construction projects may only be one or two years in duration, preventing some workers from ever being able to change unions under the current system.

“Single-step certification is crucial in protecting our right to unionize without employer intimidation,” said Izzy Adachi, Worker Solidarity Network director-at-large and former union organizer at Starbucks Victoria. “This is a win for all workers, but especially for the essential and front-line workers who have been fighting to be treated and paid fairly throughout this pandemic.”

Quick facts

  • B.C. has alternated several times between the one- and two-step systems.
  • The current two-step system has been in place since 2001.
  • During 1973-1984 and 1993-2001, when the single-step certification system was in place, B.C. had higher union certification rates.
  • The Minister of Labour’s November 2020 mandate letter includes a priority to “ensure that every worker has the right to join a union and bargain for fair working conditions.”


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