Union certification is the process by which a union gains the right to represent employees of an employer in relation to the terms and conditions of employment, more commonly referred to as unionization.

In the construction industry in Ontario, a union must file an Application with the Ontario Labour Relations Board (the “Board”) asking to be certified to represent an employer’s employees.

In Ontario, the construction industry is subject to “card based certification”. This means the union will seek support from employees by having them sign cards/documents.

Where the union can only show 40-55% support, the Board will order a secret ballot vote, where the union must attain 50% +1 of the vote in order to then become certified.

If the union can show that it has support from at least 55% of the employees it proposes to represent, the Board will usually grant certification without any vote.

Since only the employees working on the day of the Application will generally be counted for the purposes of meeting the support threshold, or setting the voting constituency, it is important for non-unionized employers to always be aware of the threat of unionization and who is working on any given day.

Lastly, if served with an Application for Certification, employers must act quickly by contacting legal counsel, as a Response must be filed with the Board within 2 days from receiving the Application.

For most construction employers, unionization can be debilitating to their economic survival. As such, it is important to be constantly aware and engage expert legal counsel.