The bargaining unit refers to the group of employees represented by a union, or the employees the union is proposing to represent when it applies for certification.
The Labour Relations Board will only certify a union to represent a group of employees if it is satisfied that the group applied for is appropriate for collective bargaining. Whether a unit is appropriate for bargaining depends on a number of factors that are explained in the Board's leading decisions.
Access to collective bargaining and industrial stability
There are two fundamental principles the Board balances when it receives an application for certification for a group of employees:
- the employees' right to access collective bargaining, and
- industrial stability.
If another group of the employer's employees is already represented by a union, the Board's main concern is ensuring industrial stability. If there is more than one bargaining unit of employees, this can increase the prospect of industrial instability. If the union is applying for the first bargaining unit of the employer's employees, the Board's main concern is access to collective bargaining.
What is an appropriate bargaining unit?
Generally, an appropriate bargaining unit is one that includes employees (including dependent contractors):
- around which a rational and defensible line can be drawn; and
- where the employees share a community of interest.
The Board will generally find a unit that includes all of the employer's employees is an appropriate one.
If a union is applying for a unit that includes less than all of the employer's employees, the Board will consider a number of factors to determine whether the unit is appropriate.
Community of interest
The Board decides whether a group of employees share a community of interest by looking at four factors:
- similarity in skills, interests, duties and working conditions,
- the physical and administrative structure of the employer,
- functional integration, and
If the same or a different union already represents another, different group of employees of the employer, the Board will also consider two additional factors:
- the practice and history of the current collective bargaining relationship, and
- the practice and history of collective bargaining in the industry or sector.
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.