Being able to negotiate your working conditions through collective bargaining is without a doubt one of the main advantages of unionization. There is no equivalent of this very real power in a non-unionized work environment. Here is why.


Acting together in solidarity, workers are better able to promote their interests and to gain respect for their rights from an employer. In other words, they find strength in unity.


Unionized workers have another ace in the hole: collective bargaining as framed by the Labour Code. The Code lays down mechanisms to mitigate the asymmetry of power that is inherent to the employer-worker relationship. Labour and management can thus negotiate on an equal footing.

In this regard, the Code contains the following provisions:

  • The employer has an obligation to negotiate with the workers’ union in order to conclude a collective agreement and cannot unilaterally determine their working conditions.
  • Both the employer and the union must negotiate in good faith: the parties must engage in a genuine dialogue, seek compromise, and make a reasonable effort in order to reach an agreement.
  • When negotiations are deadlocked, both parties can seek resolution through conciliation and arbitration.
  • The parties have equivalent pressure tactics at their disposal, the strike and the lock-out, which are only used as a last resort given their detrimental consequences for both workers and the employer.

Sources :
1) Ministère du Travail, Le Code du travail en questions et réponses, 2014 Edition (in French only)
2) On the concept of good faith, see this judgment of the Supreme Court, para. 99 to 105


In the NON-unionized work environment

  • Employers have no obligation to negotiate with workers, either individually or collectively. They can, and most often do, unilaterally determine working conditions.
  • Negotiations, if they do take place, will be on an individual basis, in a context where the employer is in a position of authority with respect to the worker who is trying to defend his or her own interests. The parties therefore do not negotiate on an equal footing.
  • In the event that negotiations stall, the asymmetry in the relationship allows the employer to impose conditions in a “take it or leave it” offer. The worker must accept or look for employment elsewhere.
  • The legislation governing labour in a non-unionized environment does not include provisions aimed at creating a fairer context for negotiations between employer and workers.