Internal union affairs

A union is a member-based organization that has its own internal rules for things like elections, meetings, and discipline. These internal rules are found in the union’s constitution, by-laws, and policies. The Labour Relations Board has very limited authority over a union’s internal affairs.

The union must act in accordance with the principles of natural justice in a dispute between a union and a member that relates to:  

  • matters in the constitution of the trade union,
  • the person's membership in a trade union, or
  • discipline by a trade union

A union member who believes the union has denied them natural justice can apply to the Board. However, this is not a right of appeal to the Board against a decision the union makes. An application under Section 10 regarding natural justice is limited to the process the union used to come to its decision.

It also does not apply to decisions the union makes when representing a member in the workplace dispute with the employer. Learn more about arbitrary, discriminatory, or bad faith union representation.

What are the principles of natural justice?

The phrase principles of natural justice has a special legal meaning. It is not a catch-all term for getting justice or what a person feels is a fair or just process or outcome in a dispute between a union and a member or group of members. 

The principles of natural justice relate to process and in this context, concerns how a union makes decisions about its internal affairs. Generally, the principles of natural justice mean:

  • you should know the details of what the union says you did and why it resulted in charges or discipline
  • the hearing or trial process gave you a fair and reasonable opportunity to respond to the allegations or issues
    • what is fair and reasonable may depend on the nature and seriousness of the charge or discipline and the process, such as whether there are witnesses and a chance to file documents and make submissions
  • the decision reached was based on the issues and arguments presented and by neutral individuals i.e. they were not involved in the event or circumstances

The union is entitled to:  

  • expel or suspend a member from the union
  • refuse to let someone become a union member or
  • impose a penalty or make a special levy on someone as a condition of membership (including one that is based on support of the union's certification application),

unless doing so amounts to discrimination or it is doing so is because the member refused or didn't participate in an activity that is prohibited by the Code (such as an illegal strike).

The Board considers something to be discriminatory if it is prohibited by the B.C. Human Rights Code or if it results in one union member being treated differently than another member without a valid reason.

The Board doesn't interpret a union's constitution and by-laws to decide if the union's decision was right or wrong. That is the role of the courts.

Before you file your application, you must complete any internal appeal process you have with the union.

An application must be filed within a reasonable amount of time after the completion of the internal appeal process, if there is one.

If your application is filed more than three months after completion of the internal appeal process, you must explain why you didn't file it sooner. The reason for the delay must be compelling or the application will be dismissed as untimely.

To file an application:

  1. Complete Form 10: Internal Union Affairs Applications
    FORM 10: INTERNAL UNION AFFAIRS APPLICATION
  2. Include all the information you want the Board to consider
  3. Submit the application by email, mail, or courier
  4. Serve the other party as required by the Rules
  5. Arrange to pay the $100 filing fee

Try to explain what happened in your case in as clear and simple language as possible. Try to organize your application in chronological order (the sequence of events in the order they happened) with headings.

Include any supporting documents (e.g. emails, letters, copies of text messages) with your application and explain how they support your case.

If you need to, you can attach a separate page to answer questions on the form.

It is very helpful if you number each of the pages in your application and each of the pages of the documents attached to your application.

Make sure that your documents and your application are readable and that your application is complete.

Leading decisions:

Leading decisions provide useful information on how the Labour Relations Board applies the Labour Relations Code (the Code) and information on what is or is not covered by the Code.


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This page was last updated: 2021-05-18

Disclaimer: The information on this website is provided for general purposes only and is not legal advice. This information is subject to the Labour Relations Code, the Labour Relations Board Rules, the Labour Relations Regulation and the published decisions of the Board

The Labour Relations Board acknowledges the traditional territories of the many diverse Indigenous Peoples in the geographic area we serve. With gratitude and respect, we acknowledge that the Board’s office is located on the traditional unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səlil̓wətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.