The Labour Relations Code allows employees to join or form a trade union. A union may become the exclusive bargaining agent for a unit of employees in two ways. It may be voluntarily recognized by an employer. A union may also apply to the Labour Relations Board for certification. See: Section 32.
If a union applies for certification, employees vote on whether or not a union will represent them. The vote is by secret ballot. A union is certified only if the employees decide to be represented by it. Certified unions can require the employer to bargain in good faith. This normally results in a collective agreement. Such an agreement covers all employees in the bargaining unit.
Unions file a certification application to begin the process. Applications must meet several criteria. The application must be on the correct form. An application must be timely. The application must include evidence that 40% of the employees in the bargaining unit applied for support the union. The bargaining unit applied for must be appropriate. The application must also contain the correct legal name of the employer and the union. These criteria are explained below.
Unions must file an “Application for Certification” form. A union organizer must complete the form’s declaration. Application and petition forms are available in the Board’s
Applications are subject to time limits. These are outlined below. See: Section 37.
Unions must file their constitutional documents with the Board. This filing must take place at least 60 days before applying for certification. This rule applies to newly formed unions and new locals of established unions. The Board can reduce this time in special cases. Unions must obtain any waiver before applying for certification. See: Sections 24(1)(a), 37(1)(a); Bulletin 7.
If a union withdraws a certification application, it cannot make the same application for 90 days. Similarly, if the Board has refused an application, the union must wait 90 days. The Board can reduce this waiting period on application by the union. The Board cannot grant consent after a certification application has been filed. Applicants must seek a waiver of the 90-day time-bar before applying for certification. See: Section 57; Steelworkers 722 v. Handleman Co. of Canada Ltd.  Alta. L.R.B.R. 431.
Strikes or Lockouts
No union can apply for certification during a lawful strike or lockout without Board consent. See: Section 37(1)(b).
Existing Collective Bargaining
Unions may apply for certification during one of six open periods. These are:
See: Section 37(2).
Proof of Support
Certification applications must include evidence of employee support. At least 40 percent of the employees in the unit applied for must support the union. This evidence can be membership evidence or petition evidence. See: Section 33.
Membership evidence includes applications for membership, memberships in good standing, or a mixture of the two. This evidence can be:
Copies of completed membership
application cards along with proof of payment of a sum of not less than $2. Membership
applications must be no more than 90 days old when the certification
application is filed. The Board does not require proof of payment of any other
initiation fees. Applicants for membership must pay their own $2. Loans from a
union organizer disqualify the card. This may result in less than 40% support for
the union. Including invalid cards may also cause the Board to question the
organizer's declaration. Either can end in failure of the application for
certification. See: Section 33(a)(ii).
· Copies of documents usually kept by the union showing membership in good standing. The Board usually decides membership status by looking at the union’s records. Records showing that a person is a dues paying member are acceptable proof that the person is a member in good standing. The Board may examine the union’s constitutional requirements about membership in good standing. See: Section 33(a)(i).
Petition evidence means a petition signed by each person supporting the application. Petition evidence and membership evidence cannot be combined. Signatures collected more than 90 days before the date of the certification application will not be counted. Petition headings must be complete (including the employer’s name and the union’s name) and clearly worded. The Board has blank petition forms available from its offices and on its website for applicants to use. All signatures must be witnessed. See: Section 33(b); Bulletin 1.
The Board suggests trade unions include an alphabetic list of supporters with all applications. If this is not possible, membership or application cards should be in alphabetical order. A trade union seeking to certify a large group of employees can assist the Board by providing a computer disc with a copy of the list of supporters in an Excel or MS Word format.
The bargaining unit must be appropriate for collective bargaining. Applicants word their own bargaining unit descriptions. The Board modifies this wording as necessary so long as the amended unit is appropriate for bargaining and is reasonably similar to the unit sought. See: Section 32, 35; PSERA Sections 10, 11, 16; Bulletins 9, 10, 11; GCU v. Calgary Herald  Alta. L.R.B.R. 222.
The Union's Name
The Board uses a union's legal name and local number (when applicable) on certificates. Often unions use an abbreviation (e.g., CLAC, IBEW, AUPE, or Local 47) but each union has only one true legal name.
Employers operate under a variety of names. These may be divisions, trade names, abbreviations, or names of particular institutions. Each employer has only one proper legal name. The Board uses only the employer’s full legal name. Do not put geographical references, division or institution names or operating names either as, or part of, the employer’s name. If such references are necessary to show which employees the certificate covers, put them in the unit description.
When an application is received, the Director of Settlement appoints an Officer to investigate. Board Officers are impartial employees of the Board. They do not advocate for employees, unions or employers. Rather, they make inquiries to assist the Board. See: Section 34(1); Bulletin 1.
The Officer phones the employer to:
· outline the bargaining unit applied for;
· explain the procedure for the employer's response to the application;
· make an appointment for the Officer to review the employer's records;
· state the date of the hearing and explain the possibility of cancelling the hearing if no one objects to the application or the Officer's report; See: Rules of Procedure, Rules 22(1)(m) and
· address the possibility of a vote.
· details of the hearing, and the possibility of cancelling the hearing if the application is uncontested; and
· information about the possible employee representation vote.
Employees are notified by a "Notice to Employers and Employees" posted at the work site. The Officer usually directs the employer to post the notice, but may arrange posting through some other party where appropriate. The notice tells employees about the procedures and time limits for filing objections and the possibility of cancelling the hearing if no one objects to the application. See: Section 13(1)(e); Rules of Procedure, Rule 14.
The Officer seeks from the employer:
· a contact person and phone number;
· the employer's legal counsel or agent (if any);
· the number of work sites, their location, shift times and employees working at each site;
· an employee list, preferably in alphabetical order;. and
· the date the employee commenced employment with the employer.
See: Section 13; Voting Rules, Rule 8(h).
During the investigation, the Officer will determine who can provide the necessary information for the report and will usually attempt to speak to one person on behalf of each party.
[amended March, 2009]
The Officer, union and employer review the date, places and times suitable for voting. See: Bulletin 14.
[amended September, 2008]
At the end of the investigation, the Officer completes a report and gives it to the parties. The report includes:
The employee list in the Officer's report will include persons employed in the bargaining unit applied for, but will not show if they supported the application. For applications involving work in the construction industry, the list will also identify whether each employee has been employed for at least the 30-day period immediately preceding the date of the application. The Officer will also report on those employees who have quit or abandoned their employment since the date of the application. The Officer will, if there is a dispute over which employees should be included in the unit, and where possible, make a recommendation as to whether a named person is an employee included in the bargaining unit applied for, or a reasonably similar unit. See: Bulletin 22; Voting Rules.
[amended September, 2008]
Objections To the Report
All parties may object to some or all of the contents of the report. The objecting party must send its objections in writing to the Board and the other parties so that they receive a full business day of notice of the objections before the hearing. If the objecting party does not, the Board may proceed without considering the objections. See: Bulletin 3.
An employee or group of employees objecting to the application must file their objections at least one full business day before the hearing. They send the objection in writing and then they or their representative attend the scheduled hearing to present their objections to the panel. If their objections do not deal with the statutory criteria set out above, and no other objections are filed, the Board may cancel the hearing and may let the employees decide the matter in the vote.
If the Board receives no objections of substance, it processes the application relying on the facts contained in the Officer's report. It confirms the date of the representation vote if there is 40% support of employees. The success of the application then depends on the results of the vote. See: Rules of Procedure, Rule 26.
In some cases, objections may be filed which do not affect the 40% support. In those cases, the Board frequently orders the vote taken and the ballot box sealed pending a hearing and decision on the other objections. If the objections affect the 40% support, the Board orders the vote taken and the ballot box sealed pending a hearing and decision on the objections. See: UFCW 401 v. Freson Market Ltd.  Alta. L.R.B.R. 491.
[amended October, 2006]
If no objections are received one full business day before the hearing, the Officer notifies the employer and the trade union(s). The Officer discusses the voting arrangements and advises the parties if the Board has cancelled the hearing. See: Section 34(3); Bulletin 4.
If objections are filed, on the hearing date, the Board will usually rely on the facts set out in the Officer's report unless a party objecting to the report presents additional evidence. See: Rules of Procedure, Rule 22(1)(m), 26; Bulletins 3, 4.
The Board normally orders the vote once it is satisfied the union has 40% support in the unit applied for. The vote is ordered based on the Board Officer’s findings of 40% support for the application. Objections that may affect the 40% support will be heard by the Board usually after the vote is conducted and the ballot box sealed. Where no objections are filed, a Chair or Vice-Chair alone may deal with the matters. See: Sections 9(11), 34(2); Bulletin 4; GCU 34-M v. Southam Inc. et al.  Alta. L.R.B.R. 529; Carpenters 1325 v. Fraser Bros. Roofing et al.  Alta. L.R.B.R. 541.
[amended October, 2006]
The Officer prepares a Notice of Vote and Voters List and arranges for their posting at the work site.
The Board has Voting Rules and an
Information Bulletin on representation votes.
For applications involving work in the construction industry, the employer shall, as close to noon as possible on the day before the vote, and in any event no later than noon, provide all parties and the Board with a Construction Industry Continuing Employment Declaration identifying the names of any employees included on the Voters List who have quit or abandoned their employment since the date of the application. The Voters List will be amended to exclude such employees. The declaration is available on the Board’s website at http://www.alrb.gov.ab.ca/forms.html.
[amended September, 2008]
The Board issues certificates in triplicate. The trade union and employer receive original copies. The Board retains the third copy. See: Section 39.
Rules of Procedure
For further information or answers to any questions regarding this or any other Information Bulletin please contact:
Labour Relations Board
501, 10808 99 Avenue
Telephone: (780) 422-5926
Manager of Settlement
Labour Relations Board
308, 1212 31 Avenue NE
Telephone: (403) 297-4334