What is a union?

A union is an association of workers. It can take several forms, but the single basic unit of a union is an association of workers who are united by their work.

In British Columbia, workers forming a union are organized after identifying themselves as having a common employer, work, or work-related economic interest such as being employed by the same employer, in the same place, doing the same work, or having the same economic interests when it comes to the work they do.

Unions are structures for economic democracy in the workplace. They come in many configurations and sizes. The main goal of a union is having a collective say over working conditions. This is usually achieved in negotiating a collective agreement, coming under the regulation of the BC Labour Relations Code and engaging with the BC Labour Relations Board.

What is a local?

Workers who have organized an association in their workplace and join CUPE are brought together under a single democratic structure called a “local”. With 700,000 members and growing, CUPE (the Canadian Union of Public Employees) is Canada’s largest union. It brings together workers in thousands of locals.

As a strong and democratic union, CUPE is committed to improving the quality of life for workers in Canada. People working together to form local unions built CUPE. They did so to have a stronger voice – a collective voice – in their workplace and in society as a whole. CUPE members have enjoyed the benefits of this collective voice for more than 50 years.

We do different jobs that require different skills. We are diverse – from all sorts of backgrounds in all corners of the country—but connected by a common purpose: to make lives better for working people, their families, and all of our communities.

What is a collective agreement?

A collective agreement is a written contract negotiated and agreed between the union and employer. It details for workers and the employer their rights and responsibilities when it comes to work.

The collective agreement outlines such things as wages, benefits, hours of work, vacation and holidays, seniority, how to handle disagreements, health and wellness accommodations, etc. It ensures that everyone receives equal treatment by the employer and that there is an accountability process if the agreement is violated. You will have the opportunity to democratically elect your co-workers to serve on a committee< to bargain your collective agreement, and you will vote on its ratification.

What can we gain from union representation?

First and foremost, we will be able to negotiate an agreement that reflects the nature of your work, stipulating terms and conditions that must be respected by our employer, the municipality you work for. Arbitrary decisions and actions by an employer will not be permitted with respect to the contents of the contract. We will have a collective voice and be able to make democratic decisions about our workplace.

Unionized recreation and cultural workers throughout B.C. have made great strides through negotiations, including paid set up time in for scheduled classes, annual wage increases and payment in lieu of benefits, to name only a few.

Who is organizing this union campaign?

Each local is responsible, with assistance from CUPE Organizing staff, to run the organizing campaign. The inside committees are reaching out to workers within the workplace to explain the campaign and offer workers to sign a card.

Not all locals have started a campaign, but if you are interested in learning more please contact us at organizebc@cupe.ca

What specific issues drove fitness professional and cultural workers to organize in some B.C. municipalities?

Fitness professional and cultural workers have been concerned about various issues around their working conditions. The issues of course vary from workplace to workplace, but many workers report:

  • working more than the hours set out in our contract/agreement (overwork)
  • lack of, or inconsistent, training
  • pay and compensation inadequate for cost of living
  • lack of parity of hourly pay in contrast with other municipalities
  • discrepancies, delays, and lack of accountability/transparency in payment for work
  • general lack of fairness and transparency with regards to work assignments
  • inadequate health and safety
  • insufficient (enforceable) protections against discriminatory practices

More than ever right now, workers need support in advocating for labour protections as we navigate through an increasingly precarious work environment as a result of COVID-19. All these issues, which many are facing within this field of work, could be mitigated to a great degree by a legally binding agreement and the support of CUPE advocates from within your own ranks, working with the support of the union.

How will a collective agreement protect the interests of recreation and cultural workers?

The following are achievements that have been negotiated by recreation and cultural workers at CUPE locals in B.C.:

  1. Annual negotiated wage rate increases
  2. In lieu of benefits increases
  3. Paid set-up time incorporated into scheduled class time
  4. Remuneration for union work
  5. Anti-harassment and bullying language
  6. Health and safety support

What does it mean to sign a union card? Is there a cost?

Signing a card means you are:

  1. applying for membership in CUPE
  2. indicating that you support a union being formed in the workplace.

There is no cost to sign.

I’m interested! How do I sign up?

If you are ready to sign up, you can click here to request a card. After you submit this form, you will receive an e-mail from CUPE with the official electronic card attached if there is an active campaign in your workplace. The subject line will start “Signature requested on.” Adobe Sign is used to sign, as required by the BC Labour Relations Board. Please fill in the card as soon as you get it.

If there is not an active campaign in your workplace, an organizer will reach out to you once one has been initiated.

Signing a card is quick and completely confidential, meaning that the employer has no way to discover whether you sign or not.

If you would like more information, or if you need assistance signing a card (e.g. due to accessibility needs or unresolved technical issues), please contact us at organizebc@cupe.ca. An organizer will get in touch to help you.

Who is eligible to sign a card in this campaign?

Any recreation or cultural worker who is either employed or currently laid off with plans to go back if re-called, by a Municipal employer in B.C., can sign a card. We are currently working on campaigns in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley.

Can a union help if I’m having issues with my supervisor or someone else, I work with (e.g. harassment, bullying)?

Yes! CUPE has often negotiated strong language regarding bullying and anti-harassment provisions.