Labour Organizations in Canada 2015

Introduction

Every year, the Workplace Information and Research Division of the Labour Program undertakes a survey of all labour organizations in Canada that represent bargaining units of 50 or more workers.Footnote 1 The results from the 2015 survey are presented in this report, along with updates on union mergers and changes to legislation affecting collective bargaining in Canada in 2015.

The number of unionized workers in Canada increased from 2014

As reported by labour organizations, the total number of workers paying dues to a union in Canada was 4.83 million at the end of 2015, up from 4.75 million at the end of 2014.

Union dues-paying workers comprised 31.8% of all employees in Canada in 2015, an increase of 0.3 percentage points from 2014 (Appendix 1). By comparison, the share of employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement, as calculated by Statistics Canada, was 30.6% in 2015.Footnote 2

The majority of unionized workers were represented by national unions

In Canada, unions can be divided into four main types: (1) national; (2) international; (3) independent local organization; and (4) directly chartered local.Footnote 3 A strong majority (69.7%) of dues-paying workers (henceforth, unionized workers) were affiliated with national unions (Chart 1 and Appendix 3) in 2015. International unions accounted for almost 25% of unionized workers, followed by independent local organizations (3.9%) and directly chartered locals (1.5%). Compared to 2014, there was little change in representation by type of organization.

Chart 1: Share of unionized workers, by organization type, 2015
Chart 1: Share of unionized workers, by organization type, 2015
Text description Chart 1: Share of unionized workers, by organization type, 2015
Chart 1: Share of unionized workers, by organization type, 2015
Organization type Distribution (percent)
National 69.7
International 24.9
Independent local 3.9
Directly Chartered 1.5
Chart 2: Share of unions, by organization type, 2015
Chart 2: Share of unions, by organization type, 2015
Text description Chart 2: Share of unions, by organization type, 2015
Chart 2: Share of unions, by organization type, 2015
Organization type Distribution (percent)
National 25.3
International 5.2
Independent local 32.2
Directly Chartered 37.4

In 2015, national and international unions represented almost 95% of unionized workers, but accounted for 30.5% of the total number of unions in Canada (Chart 2 and Appendix 3). Directly chartered locals and independent local organizations made up the majority of unions (69.6%).

Eight large unions represented almost half of unionized workers

In 2015, the total number of unions stood at 776. Eight of those unions – five of which were national and three international – represented 100,000 or more workers each (Appendix 4). The eight comprised 45.1% of all unionized workers in Canada.

The 18 unions with between 50,000 and 100,000 workers represented 25.9% of all unionized workers. Just 1.9% of unionized workers were members of the 282 unions representing less than 1,000 workers each.Footnote 4

The Canadian Labour Congress represented more than two-thirds of unionized workers

In 2015, the vast majority of unionized workers (81%) were affiliated with a labour congress. The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) represented more than two thirds of all unionized workers (69.0%),Footnote 5 followed by the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), which represented 6.9% of unionized workers (Chart 3 and Appendix 7). Almost 19% of unionized workers were not affiliated with any labour congress. This situation was relatively unchanged from 2014. While affiliation with the CLC rose slightly (0.2 percentage points), there was no change for the CSN.

Chart 3: Share of unionized workers, by congress affiliation, 2015
Chart 3: Share of unionized workers, by congress affiliation, 2015
Text description Chart 3: Share of unionized workers, by congress affiliation, 2015
Chart 3: Share of unionized workers, by congress affiliation, 2015
Congress affiliation Distribution (percent)
Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) 69
Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) 6.9
Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ) 2.7
Centrale des syndicats démocratiques (CSD) 1.5
Confederation of Canadian Unions (CCU) 0.2
American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) only 0.7
Unafiliated unions 18.9

Union mergers

In 2015, two independent unions joined a larger labour organization: the University of New Brunswick Employees Association and its 320 members merged with Unifor to form Local 4504; and the New Frontier Independent Association, with 50 members, merged with the Service Employees International Union to form Local 800.

Legislative changes

In 2015, there were a number of legislative changes affecting unions and collective bargaining in Canada.

A significant change was made to the federal labour relations system with the coming into force of Bill C-525, the Employees' Voting Rights Act, on June 16, 2015. Bill C-525 modified the union certification and revocation of certification (decertification) rules under three federal relations statutes: the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Public Service Labour Relations Act. On January 28, 2016, the Government of Canada tabled Bill C-4 (An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Income Tax Act) which, if enacted, would reverse the changes made by Bill C-525 and restore the card-check certification system.

In November 2015, the Government of Saskatchewan enacted The Saskatchewan Employment (Essential Services) Amendment Act, 2015, which obliges public service employers and unions to negotiate essential services agreements prior to a work stoppage. In the event an essential service agreement substantially interferes with the right to strike, collective bargaining impasses must be resolved through binding mediation-arbitration. This legislation was enacted in response to a January 2015 finding of the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) that the province's Public Service Essential Services Act was unconstitutional for, among other things, allowing public sector employers to unilaterally designate which workers are essential, thereby substantially interfering with workers' freedom of association and their right to strike.

A number of other legislative changes affecting unions and labour relations were made throughout Canada in 2015. For example, Bill 51 in New Brunswick (An Act to Amend the Public Service Labour Relations Act) amended the provincial Public Service Labour Relations Act to increase the period within which notice to bargain collectively - where a collective agreement or arbitral award is in force - may be given from two to six months. Bill 51 came into force on June 5, 2015. In Alberta, Bill 6 (Enhanced Protection for Farms and Ranch Workers Act) received Royal Assent on December 11, 2015. Bill 6 amended a number of provincial Acts, including amending the Labour Relations Code to no longer exclude certain farm and ranch workers from its application. This amendment will come into force on proclamation.

Appendix 1: Unionized workers in Canada, 1999–2015

Year Unionized workersa
(thousands)
All Employeesb
(thousands)
Unionized workers as a share of all employees (percent)
1999 4,058 11,961 33.9
2000 4,111 12,379 33.2
2001 4,174 12,654 33.0
2002 4,178 12,967 32.2
2003 4,261 13,249 32.2
2004 4,381 13,459 32.5
2005 4,441 13,607 32.6
2006 4,480 13,892 32.2
2007 4,592 14,171 32.4
2008 4,605 14,360 32.1
2009 4,645 14,035 33.1
2010 4,626 14,283 32.4
2011 4,664 14,559 32.0
2012 4,735 14,760 32.1
2013 4,710 14,961 31.5
2014 4,753 15,077 31.5
2015 4,828 15,187 31.8
  • a. Source: Labour Program, ESDC
  • b. Source: Labour Force Survey, Statistics Canada, CANSIM Table 282-0012

Appendix 2: Union affiliation, 2015

Congress affiliation Unions Locals Unionized workers
Number Distribution
(percent)
National 196 10,652 3,364,739 69.7
Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) 51 7,105 2,167,858 44.9
Independent national 107 1,294 721,703 15.0
Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) 17 1,742 329,335 6.8
Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ) 14 429 130,427 2.7
Confederation of Canadian Unions (CCU) 5 33 10,478 0.2
Centrale des syndicats démocratiques (CSD) 2 49 4,938 0.1
International 40 1,300 1,200,415 24.9
American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) / Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) 30 1,137 932,732 19.3
Change to Win (CtW) / Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) 3 83 230,007 4.8
American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) only 4 72 35,684 0.7
Independent international 3 8 1,992 0.0
Directly chartered 290 N/A 74,490 1.5
Centrale des syndicats démocratiques (CSD) 287 N/A 68,435 1.4
Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) 1 N/A 6,000 0.1
Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) 2 N/A 55 0.0
Independent local 250 275 188,609 3.9
Total 776 12,227 4,828,253 100.0
  • Source: Labour Program, ESDC

Appendix 3: Type of union, 2015

Organization type Unions Unionized workers
Number Distribution (percent) Number Distribution (percent)
National 196 25.3 3,364,739 69.7
International 40 5.2 1,200,415 24.9
Independent local 250 32.2 188,609 3.9
Directly chartered 290 37.4 74,490 1.5
Total 776 100.0 4,828,253 100.0
  • Source: Labour Program, ESDC
  • (Percentages may not total to 100% due to rounding)

Appendix 4: Union size and type, 2015

National International Independent local Total*
Unions Workers Unions Workers Unions Workers Unions Workers
Fewer than 1,000 81 30,478 8 3,307 193 57,978 282 91,763
1,000-9,999 70 263,352 14 58,501 56 120,631 140 442,484
10,000-29,999 20 362,271 8 130,506 1 10,000 29 502,777
30,000-49,999 8 320,162 1 38,000 9 358,162
50,000-99,999 12 776,280 6 405,450 18 1,181,730
100,00 and more 5 1,612,196 3 564,651 8 2,176,847
  • Source: Labour Program, ESDC
  • *Directly chartered unions are not included

Appendix 5: Unions with 30,000 or more unionized workers, 2015

Name Affiliation Number
Canadian Union of Public Workers CLC 635,500
National Union of Public and General Workers CLC 360,000
UNIFOR CLC 300,152
United Food and Commercial Workers Canada AFL-CIO/CLC 247,543
United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union AFL-CIO/CLC 190,452
Public Service Alliance of Canada CLC 181,017
Fédération de la santé et des services sociaux CSN 135,527
Service Workers International Union CtW/CLC 126,656
Labourers' International Union of North America AFL-CIO/CLC 97,000
Teamsters Canada CtW/CLC 93,351
Alberta Union of Provincial Workers Independent national 85,803
Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario CLC 78,204
FTQ Construction CLC 77,300
Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation CLC 73,311
Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec Independent national 66,000
Christian Labour Association of Canada Independent national 61,501
Fédération des employées et employés de services publics inc. CSN 60,700
Ontario Nurses' Federation CLC 60,000
Fédération des syndicats de l'enseignement CSQ 59,000
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers AFL-CIO/CLC 57,130
United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada AFL-CIO/CLC 55,643
Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada Independent national 53,930
International Union of Operating Engineers AFL-CIO/CLC 52,326
Canadian Union of Postal Workers CLC 50,531
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers AFL-CIO/CLC 50,000
United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America CLC 50,000
Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association CLC 48,545
British Columbia Nurses' Union Independent national 46,291
British Columbia Teachers' Federation CLC 43,563
Alberta Teachers' Association Independent national 42,572
Amalgamated Transit Union AFL-CIO/CLC 38,000
Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union CLC 36,287
Syndicat de la fonction publique et parapublique du Québec Independent national 34,904
Fédération autonome de l'enseignement Independent national 34,000
Fédération nationale des enseignantes et des enseignants du Québec CSN 34,000
  • Affiliations legend:
    • AFL-CIO - American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations
    • CLC – Canadian Labour Congress
    • CSN - Confédération des syndicats nationaux
    • CSQ - Centrale des syndicats du Québec
    • CtW - Change to Win
  • Source: Labour Program, ESDC

Appendix 6: Affiliation with the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), 2015

Unionized workers
Number Distribution (percent)
CLC affiliation only 2,167,858 65.1
CLC and international affiliation 1,162,739 34.9
AFL-CIO/CLC 932,732 28.0
CtW/CLC 230,007 6.9
CLC directly chartered 55 0.0
Total affiliation with the CLC 3,330,891 100.0
  • Source: Labour Program, ESDC

Appendix 7: Union coverage, by congress affiliation, 2015

Congress affiliation Unionized workers
Number Distribution (percent)
Canadian Labour Congress (CLC)
American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) / Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) 932,732 19.3
Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) only 2,167,858 44.9
Change to Win (CtW) / Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) 230,007 4.8
Directly chartered 55 0.0
Total 3,330,652 69.0
Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN)
Federation 329,335 6.8
Directly chartered 6,000 0.1
Total 335,335 6.9
Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ)
Total 130,427 2.7
Centrale des syndicats démocratiques (CSD)
Federation 4,938 0.1
Directly chartered 68,435 1.4
Total 73,373 1.5
Confederation of Canadian Unions (CCU)
Total 10,478 0.2
American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) only
Total 35,684 0.7
Unaffiliated unions
Independent international 1,992 0.0
Independent local 188,609 3.9
Independent national 721,703 14.9
Total 912,304 18.9
Grand Total 4,828,253 100.0
  • Source: Labour Program, ESDC

Appendix 8: Methodology

The Labour Program's data is collected directly from labour organizations using a self-reporting survey. Small labour organizations (i.e. fewer than 50 workers) are not part of the sampling frame for the survey, since the Labour Program does not have a systematic count of them.

For each labour organization, the survey asks about the number of union dues-paying workers, the number of locals represented, and the union's affiliation with the labour congresses. The information is requested as of December 31 of the reporting year. The survey is sent out in mid-December with responses requested by the end of January the following year. When labour organizations do not respond to the survey by the time the results are consolidated, figures from the most recent year available are used instead.

The Labour Program's survey of labour organizations and Statistics Canada's Labour Force Survey (LFS) provide different estimates of the union coverage rate. The numerator of the rates differ because of how the data is collected (i.e. the LFS is a survey of households, and it is a monthly survey) and what is measured (i.e. the LFS asks persons who have paid employment whether they are covered by a collective bargaining agreement as well as whether they are members of a union). The denominator used to calculate the coverage rates is the same, the number of employees in Canada, as reported in the LFS.

Appendix 9: Definitions

Union: Labour organization that organizes and charters locals, sets general policy for its locals, assists them in the conduct of their affairs, and is the medium for co-ordinating their activities.

Labour congress: An umbrella organization of unions that provides assistance and support to its members.

Unionized workers: All workers that are paying unions dues to a labour organization.

Union coverage: Unionized workers as a share of all employees in Canada.

Local: The basic unit of labour organizations formed in a particular plant or establishment. The members participate directly in the affairs of their local, including the election of officers, financial and other business matters, and relations between their organization and the employer, and they pay dues to the local.

National union: A union that represents its members in Canada only.

International union: A union that represents its members in Canada and the United States. In Labour Program's survey, only workers in Canada are reported.

Independent local organization: A union that is not formally affiliated with any other labour organization.

Directly chartered local: A union that is organized and receives its charter from a labour congress. It pays per capita dues to the congress and receives services from the congress.

Footnotes

Footnote 1

Appendix 8 discusses the survey methodology.

Return to footnote 1 referrer

Footnote 2

Source: Labour Force Survey, Statistics Canada, CANSIM table 282-0012. See Appendix 8 for further information on the differences in methodology between the two estimates of the union coverage rate.

Return to footnote 2 referrer

Footnote 3

Appendix 9 contains the definition of each type of union. Appendix 2 contains the breakdown of union coverage by type of organization.

Return to footnote 3 referrer

Footnote 4

Appendix 5 contains the detailed list of labour organizations with 30,000 or more workers.

Return to footnote 4 referrer

Footnote 5

See Appendix 6 for details of the CLC's coverage by affiliation.

Return to footnote 5 referrer