Without the collective bargaining process, unions wouldn’t be able to look out for the best interests of employees. Collective bargaining provides union members with a voice to negotiate better wages, benefits and working conditions. Through the give-and-take, unions are able to negotiate an agreement with employers that not only benefits the future of the business, but society as a whole.

The advantages of collective bargaining

Collective bargaining is the process whereby unions negotiate with employers to renew a collective agreement or enter into a new one. The process starts with a notice to bargain, a notice in writing to begin the collective bargaining process. Unions and employers must negotiate in good faith to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.

Collective agreements set out the working conditions for employees, including wages, working hours, health and safety, and overtime. When unions are able to negotiate better working conditions, it benefits society as a whole — so even non-unionized workers can reap the rewards.

Improving working conditions throughout history

Trade unions have been making a positive impact in Canada since the 19th century. Ontario became the first province to offer a social insurance plan with introduction of the Workmen’s Compensation Act in 1914.

Collective bargaining took an important step forward with the Rand Formula in 1946. The Rand Formula guarantees unions the financial resources needed to look out for the best interests of employees. The Rand Formula delivered an important message: a union is essential for the betterment of all workers.

The benefits of unions can still be felt today — just last year Canada’s largest private-sector union was born. The bottom line is unions benefit the public and private sector, and society in general.

A CHANCE TO BE HEARD: Every member of a union has a chance to address their elected leaders and have a say in all union matters.

Collective bargaining stronger than ever

Unions and collective bargaining remain stronger than ever in Canada. According to Employment and Social Development Canada, today about one-third of Canadian workers belong to or are covered by a collective agreement. Unionization differs a lot by age. Only 16 percent of workers aged 15 to 24 have the benefit of a union. More needs to be done to get younger workers engaged and excited about unions.

A world without collective bargaining

To say unions are an important part of society would be putting it mildly. A future without unions would be bleak. Without unions and the collective bargaining process, society would be a lot worse off. If there weren’t any unions, we would most likely see higher poverty rates, higher workplace accident and death rates, and fewer good quality jobs.

 The trend of offshoring – sending well-paying jobs overseas – would continue, as there would be no one reinvesting back into our society to help create local jobs. We’ve looked into our crystal ball and a future without unions isn’t a good one – the middle class would continue to shrink, there would be slower economic growth and stagnant wages.

Ontario is facing some tough challenges ahead. The rising Canadian dollar has been especially tough on the manufacturing sector. As Ontario’s economy tries to get back on track, unions will be there to pick up the slack. Through the power of collective bargaining, unions lead to a lower level of poverty, a more inclusive workplace, and pay equality to make society better for everyone.