FAQS

If I join, can my employer fire me? How do I get detailed benefits information? Is CLAC a real union? Discover the answers here.

Join Us

If you don’t find the answers you’re looking for here, check out Join Us or talk to one of our reps today.

What do I gain from joining?

You gain the advantages of belonging to a union—job security, advocacy for fair pay and work conditions, a great benefits package, retirement savings plans, training programs—without the negative union baggage. You gain being part of a union that doesn’t leave you feeling alienated from your co-workers or employer. You gain a constructive, values-based approach that builds positive work environments and creates positive results.

What does it cost?

If and when a collective agreement is in place, you will be required to pay union dues. Our dues policy is set by the union's National Convention at a very competitive rate. For details, call one of our knowledgeable reps today.

Can my workplace switch to CLAC if it’s already unionized?

Yes, within certain time frames established by federal and provincial labour laws. These time frames are often informally referred to as open season. The best way to learn more is to talk to one of our reps today.

If I join, can my employer fire me?

Provincial and federal laws give workers the right to unionize without punishment or retaliation. If your employer tries to intimidate you in any way or terminates your employment, we’ll bring the full weight of the law to bear—regardless of whether the unionization campaign is successful or not. You're protected the moment you sign a membership application card.

Your employer has very limited rights to communicate its views on a union organizing campaign. Most employers know and accept this—if not, we’ll certainly inform them! We can and will protect you if your employer illegally punishes workers for supporting the union.

Should your employer respond negatively, keep a record of anything out of the ordinary during an organizing campaign. For example, obtain copies of bulletins and take note of any intimidating conversations with management, and report them to your CLAC rep.

It’s important you understand that threats of layoff, reduced hours, closure, or the dismissal of workers who talk union are illegal. Equally important to know is that CLAC-trained staff or legal counsel will be retained on behalf of anyone whose rights are violated.

If I join, can my employer change my working conditions, cut the workforce, or take away my benefits and privileges?

No. The law forbids employers from making changes. A freeze period runs from the date of application for certification to a set date, or until a first contract is reached. Changes can only be made with the permission of the labour relations board or the union during this freeze period.

How does the contract negotiation process work?

You and your fellow workers will meet with one of our experienced reps to draft contract proposals and elect members to a bargaining committee. We’ll give the committee access to our research on economic and bargaining trends in your industry and comparable workplaces. This committee and your CLAC rep will negotiate with your employer with the goal of reaching the best possible settlement.

A settlement is only concluded once you and your fellow workers (or sometimes fellow local members) have ratified it by a majority in a membership vote.

What types of work conditions, benefits and other features are commonly included in a contract settlement?

While every settlement is different, your contract will ensure you enjoy strong representation and excellent work conditions, benefits, and wages, which often include:

  • a fair promotion system
  • a dispute resolution procedure
  • fair wages
  • job security and seniority provisions
  • employer contributions to the CLAC Pension Plan or group RRSP
  • a comprehensive employer-paid health insurance plan
  • education and training opportunities
  • vacation with pay
  • paid holidays
  • personal paid days or sick days
  • pay for jury duty or coroner’s inquest
  • allowances for uniforms, safety shoes/boots, and other mandated equipment

Benefits

If you don’t find the answers you’re looking for here, check out Benefits or talk to one of our reps today.

What benefits do you offer?

We negotiate for extensive health and welfare benefits and retirement plans on your behalf. We also offer other extras, including our vendor discount program, yearly scholarships, and Bereavement Fund.

What types of health and welfare benefit programs do you offer?

Regardless of your plan’s specific details, you’re sure to enjoy a comprehensive collection of benefits, including programs for:

  • prescription drugs
  • vision care
  • dental care
  • extended health (e.g., orthotics, hearing aids, paramedical services, etc.)
  • disability benefits (short and long term)
  • life insurance
  • accidental death and dismemberment
  • out of Canada/Province emergencies
  • employee and family assistance program (EFAP)—provides confidential, short term counseling assistance to you and your family members in dealing with personal difficulties

What types of retirement programs do you offer?

We negotiate and manage two retirement savings plans.The first is the CLAC Pension Plan, a defined contribution registered plan that was established in 1974 and has averaged a solid rate of return since its inception. The second is a group RSP through Great-West Life, which may be available for workers in western Canada.

What benefit providers do you deal with?

Regardless of the terms of your collective agreement and region of employment, your benefit providers will be leaders in their industry, including:

  • Sun Life Financial
  • Standard Life
  • RBC Insurance
  • Chartis Insurance Company of Canada
  • Ceridian Lifeworks

How do I get detailed benefits information?

If you’re not already represented by CLAC, the best place to start is to read an overview of the various benefits and retirement-related programs we offer. If we already represent you at your workplace, you can find benefit forms and more details in Member Resources. And if you have specific coverage questions, please contact your Benefit Administration office.

Where do I get a claim form?

If we already represent you at your workplace, it will probably be easiest to get benefit forms and more details in Member Resources. You can also get claim forms from:

  • your union steward
  • your nearest CLAC office
  • your employer

Where can I get a copy of the benefit plan booklet?

You can contact your Benefit Administration Office to arrange for a benefit plan booklet to be sent to you.


About Us

If you don’t find the answers you’re looking for here, check out About Us or talk to one of our reps today.

How is CLAC affiliated?

Within Canada, CLAC is not affiliated with any provincial or national labour federation or congress, which means we’re independent. At the international level, however, we’re affiliated with the World Organization of Workers (WOW), which represents over 1.3 million workers in 130 labour unions from over 60 countries.

What is CLAC?

We’re one of the largest independent labour unions in Canada and one of the country’s fastest-growing unions. We represent over 60,000 workers in just about every type of workplace, operating as both a union and a confederation of local unions.

What exactly is a local, and how does it fit into your organization?

A local is a geographically localized chapter or branch of a union consisting of one or more bargaining units. Locals have elected officials as well as office staff. They can vary in size, depending on the size of the geographic area. The purpose of locals is to negotiate and administer collective agreements for their members. Locals are legally required to have a constitution, bylaws, and elected officers, which makes them unions in their own right.

In our case, we’re both a union and also a national organization of affiliated locals (i.e., local unions). We have a national constitution that governs CLAC as well as each local union. Locals are serviced from our regional offices, which negotiate and administer collective agreements and represent bargaining unit members.

What makes CLAC different?

Ever since we started in 1952, we have been guided by principles of respect, dignity, and fairness in the workplace rooted in our Christian foundation. These principles underpin our approach to how we negotiate and arbitrate on your behalf and make us different from and more progressive than traditional unions. The bottom line is that aggression is not effective. Dialogue gets results.

Our constructive approach means we use our size and experience to negotiate and arbitrate through dialogue, rather than unnecessary confrontation. It also means you get to keep working at full pay. But when we need to get tough, we do so while using the same constructive approach. Our track record proves we get results for our members.

Why the word "Christian" in Christian Labour Association of Canada?

People sometimes wonder if we’re affiliated with a church or religious group or if we’re only a union for people of a certain faith. We’re none of these. Our name refers to the principles that undergird our approach in representing you. We’ve kept the word Christian in our name because these guiding principles are shared in the faiths and social traditions of all sorts of people around the world. Principles that remind us to treat all human beings with dignity and respect, to seek justice in our workplaces, that cooperation is better than warfare, that workers should have choices—especially when it comes to union matters.

Criticism

Because CLAC dares to be a different, we sometimes attract the ire of others in the labour movement for whom we are competition. Here are some typical questions they like to raise about us to create doubt about who we are.

Is CLAC a real union?

That depends on what a real union means to you. If it means an organization that
 

  • pits workers against employers;
  • thinks effective negotiating means threatening a strike all the time;
  • feels it has to “kill or be killed” to get respect; or
  • thinks bullying is a sign of strength


. . . then it would be best for you to look elsewhere—CLAC is not that kind of union.

We are a real union but we take a different approach. We

  • build positive work environments and create positive results through constructive, values-based dialog;
  • negotiate on your behalf while you get to keep working at full pay—that’s right, union doesn’t have to mean strike, though CLAC has, and will, strike . . . but as a last resort;
  • are tough when called to be, but without poisoning your work environment.


We also

  • represent over 60,000 workers in just about every type of workplace, operating as both a union and a confederation of local unions;
  • have been certified over 2,000 times by labour boards across Canada;
  • train our stewards and regional reps to give you the support and advocacy you need through a network of locals across Canada;
  • participate in and are affiliated with the World Organization of Workers (WOW), which represents over 1.3 million workers in 130 labour unions from over 60 countries.
     

Does CLAC respect workers’ right to choose unions?

CLAC believes that all workers should have the right to choose which union to represent them. Ironically, the same unions that allege CLAC does not respect workers’ right to choose unions prevent their own members from switching to an affiliated union through “no raid” pacts. In this way, all the affiliates are virtually guaranteed continuous representation rights—no matter how poorly they represent their members.

If you’re a member of one of these unions and are unhappy with the service you’re getting, your only choice is to decertify the union or join CLAC—one of the reasons that CLAC is one of Canada’s fastest growing unions.

These same unions that prevent workers from switching unions also enforce mandatory membership on workplaces for which they have certified bargaining rights. This closed shop practice means that if you don’t sign a union member card, you’re out of a job. They claim compulsory membership is necessary to maintain solidarity in the bargaining unit.

CLAC has demonstrated otherwise. From our very beginnings in 1952, membership in CLAC has been 100 percent voluntary. We believe all Canadians should have access to work regardless of union affiliation.
 

Does CLAC collaborate with employers to weaken general provisions?

Some of our competitors in the labour movement falsely claim that CLAC agreements are inferior. They say that we negotiate lower compensation and weaker general provisions to appease employers.

One example they often cite as proof is an agreement between CLAC Construction Workers Union, Local 63, and Horizon Construction Management Ltd. (HCML), the general contractor for Canadian Natural Resources Limited’s $9.7 billion Horizon Oil Sands Project in northern Alberta.

The agreement is commonly referred to as a Division 8 project agreement. It is designed to allow all labour groups—members of CLAC, members of Alberta Building Trades Council (ABTC) unions, and non-union workers—to participate in building the project. The most contentious issue raised concerned provisions regarding overtime, in particular, weekend double time for ABTC affiliates.

With Horizon’s continuous work cycles on the massive project—up to 7,000 workers rotating through a variety of shift schedules—it was not possible for all workers to share in weekend overtime equally. To ensure fairness for all employees, we negotiated an overtime percentage for the various shifts.

The ironworkers union agreed to the modified provisions. Later, the electricians union also agreed. But other ABTC-affiliated unions refused to budge. They refused because they were unwilling to allow their members to work alongside CLAC and non-union tradespeople.

In doing so, they excluded their members from working on a project considered by most to be very successful, one that provides excellent wages and benefits for all those who work on it.

The Division 8 agreement negotiated between CLAC and HCML demonstrates the advantages of our model of labour relations. Cooperation and partnership does not mean appeasement to employer demands. It means a common sense approach to complex problems where solutions are worked out together to the benefit of everyone.

CLAC’s win-win, interest-based approach to bargaining produces results for our members without turning the workplace into a warzone. Our growth is testament to the success of the CLAC model.
 

Does CLAC discriminate based on age?

Unbelievably, some in the labour movement have suggested that CLAC discriminates based on age because of recommendations we made concerning Saskatchewan’s minimum wage.

In our submission to the Saskatchewan government, we recommended an increase in the minimum wage for all workers. We also suggested that to encourage youth employment this increase should be slightly less for students.

Studies show that when the minimum wage is increased, there is a demonstrated reduction in youth employment. CLAC is committed to seeking the employment of young people. Youth unemployment rates in Canada remain unacceptably high.

To address youth unemployment, some jurisdictions have multiple minimum wage levels. Ontario, for example, has five different levels, including one for students. Numerous collective agreements also allow for lower wages for students to encourage employers to hire youth.
 

Does CLAC rely on voluntary recognition to avoid real organizing?

Voluntary recognition is when an employer recognizes the wishes of its employees to unionize without going through the certification process. Sometimes an employer will recognize the union when it knows the majority of employees want a union. Sometimes the employer sees the advantages of collective bargaining and a fair process for handling grievances that come with being unionized.

Within the framework of provincial labour laws, voluntary recognition is a legitimate form of organizing workers. Not only is it legitimate, but it is used by unions of all stripes. Rules govern the process of voluntary recognition, which must be followed carefully.

CLAC does not rely on voluntary recognition to any greater extent than others in the labour movement. Since we began, we have been certified over 2,000 times by labour boards across Canada. The fact is that the majority of our members come to us to represent them because of our excellent hands-on representation and strong gains we make for them at the bargaining table.
 

Take Action!

Call one of our knowledgeable regional reps today to start the process of transforming your workplace into one marked by progressive labour relations.