Joining PSAC - Frequently Asked Questions

Why join a union?

Workers benefit when they can use their collective strength and bargaining power to negotiate improvements to their working conditions with their employers.  Many may feel that they can do a better job negotiating their own salaries. This may be the case if you are on good terms with your manager(s), but what happens when that is not the case?

We live in an increasingly individualist society where looking after each other, and being part of the collective is not as common as it once was.

Unions help to buck this trend. We are stronger when we work together. We can achieve much more when we band together.

If we recognize that we can bring our own unique energies, skills, attitudes and ideas together, we will all benefit.

Why join PSAC?

For 50 years the Public Service Alliance of Canada has been representing workers. While the majority of members are employed in the federal public service and its agencies, approximately 30% of the membership is from other sectors.

PSAC is a diverse union with expertise in:

  • contract negotiations
  • member representation
  • pay and classification
  • health and safety
  • human and equality rights
  • union education
  • research
  • organizing

We have 23 regional offices across the country.

How do newly organized groups fit into PSAC?

Some new groups will affiliate with one of our 15 Components, which provide representation and additional services to their members. Others will become directly chartered locals, which receive core services directly from PSAC. 

What can my colleagues and I gain from unionizing?

It starts with your issues. What do you need fixing in your workplace?

Workers do not have to stand for unfair practices and treatment. Provincial and federal employment standards provide offer minimum protections, but a union negotiated collective agreement gives workers more protection and benefits including:

  • workplace freedoms that non-unionized workers don’t have
  • pay and benefits that are negotiated
  • enhanced terms and conditions of work
  • a grievance process for dealing with breaches of the collective agreement
  • union training to build strong locals
  • union representation on complicated labour relations matters

How does the unionizing process work?

  1. One or more workers contact PSAC’s Organizing Program to discuss their workplace issues they are facing.
  2. An initial discussion determines if the group is a good fit with the union.
  3. If an organizing campaign is agreed to, the process is:
    • the PSAC Organizer coordinates the process
    • a small group of workers will form the organizing committee
    • an organizing plan is created with an approved budget
    • the  workers sign their union membership cards
    • the workers, the PSAC Organizer, and other representatives of the union will work together to make the organizing campaign successful
    • most labour jurisdictions require the members cast a secret ballot vote to join the union

Each campaign is unique and the realities of the workplace, the nature of the employer, particular issues all factor in to how the campaign unfolds.  Your PSAC Organizer will be with you to answer questions along the way. 

Can I lose my job by participating in a union organizing drive?

All labour jurisdictions (provincial/territorial/national) provide protections for workers who are seeking union representation.  An employer can’t legally terminate workers simply for supporting the union or being active in the union organizing drive.

The union prepares the workers for employer’s tactics as part of the organizing plan.

Will the company find out who has signed a union organizing card?

Organizing campaigns keep the member’s information confidential. The employer is never notified of who signed union membership cards.  

Does my employer have a say in the union organizing drive, can they interfere?

Your employer cannot interfere in a union organizing drive.  An employer cannot intimidate their employees who support the union. Workers have the right to unionize.

Union activities, such as card signing, should not happen on the employer’s property.

PSAC should be notified of any intimidation.

What sort of things get negotiated into our collective agreement once we are organized?

Your collective agreement will include negotiated pay, dates for pay increment increases, job protection, enhanced benefits, improved health and safety, dispute resolution processes,  for example.

Will I pay union dues after we get certified with PSAC?

You will pay union dues after your first collective agreement is ratified.

Union dues pay for all the services provided:

  • contract negotiations
  • arbitration/adjudication
  • legal services/representation
  • education
  • mobilization

All of which support your group. And, union dues are tax deductible.

What is a union collective agreement?

Your collective agreement (or contract) contains all the terms and conditions of work, including salary and benefits.

Your collective agreement is negotiated between the employer and your union.

It is a legal document which the employer and the union must both abide by. If either break those rules an independent third party – arbitrator/adjudicator - has the power to rule on the matter.

Who bargains with the employer to get our collective agreement?

You elect a bargaining team from your membership.  PSAC provides a negotiator and research officer to lead and support the process

Do I have a say in what gets negotiated?

You can provide input to the bargaining process when an input call goes out from the bargaining team.

You vote on the tentative agreement that is negotiated.

Who makes the decisions at PSAC?

Decisions are made by elected officials at various levels: local, regional, Component and national. National leaders are elected for a three-year term of office.

What does it cost to belong to PSAC?

Union dues are approximately 1.5% of gross salary.

Union dues are not paid by new members until the union has bargained a first collective agreement.

Union dues are fully tax deductible.

What compels the employer to bargain fairly with the union?

The law requires both the employer and union to bargain in good faith. All reasonable efforts must be made to negotiate a collective agreement. 

In some jurisdictions the employer is subject to binding arbitration by an independent adjudicator to settle a first union contract.

Are strikes common?

No. The vast majority of contracts are achieved without work stoppage.

A strike vote raises the stakes in negotiations and is often used as bargaining leverage.

Members vote to strike or not. No strike can occur without a majority vote by secret ballot.

The national president must sanction strikes. Members then have access to the Strike Fund.

What will be in our union contract?

Your bargaining team and your PSAC negotiator will begin with what you already have, will use established sector language, and will address specific workplace issues.

You provide input and determine your priorities. The negotiations will reflect those priorities.

Members have the right to ratify any settlement that is reached, by secret ballot vote.

Are some employees not eligible to be unionized?

Generally those with managerial responsibilities are not able to be in the union.

Don’t unions protect incompetent employees?

It is a myth the unions protect incompetent workers. Your union’s role is to make sure the employer acts fairly and doesn’t fire someone without having adequate grounds.

All employees have the right to be treated fairly, if not, your union provides representation.

Why should I join a union if I don’t have any issues with my employer?

We all want favourable labour relations and healthy workplaces.

A change in management may create a sea change in workplace climate.

With a union contract, your wages and working conditions are protected and won’t be undercut by a new boss or by a new owner.  Your collective agreement provides you with a range of protections and benefits.

March 24, 2016