Union Coverage in Canada - 2014

Publication date: November 30, 2015

Introduction

The Workplace Information and Research Division (WIRD) of the Labour Program conducts an annual census of all labour organizations in Canada that represent bargaining units of 50 or more employees. This census provides information on employees covered by collective agreements by organization type, size, and affiliation

Union coverage remains unchanged overall

Union coverage in Canada remained largely unchanged in 2014. The total number of employees covered by collective agreements reported by labour organizations is 4,753,232, an increase of 0.9% from 2013. However, the total number of employees rose by 0.8% leaving the union coverage rate unchanged from the previous year at 31.5%, after decreasing by 0.6 percentage points from 2012.Footnote 1

Chart 1: Union coverage rate in Canada (%), 1998-2014

Chart 1, Union coverage rate in Canada, 1998-2014. Details in table following the chart.
Show data table: Chart 1: Union coverage rate in Canada (%), 1998-2014
Year Coverage rate
1998 34.5%
1999 33.9%
2000 33.2%
2001 33.0%
2002 32.2%
2003 32.2%
2004 32.5%
2005 32.6%
2006 32.2%
2007 32.4%
2008 32.1%
2009 33.1%
2010 32.4%
2011 32.0%
2012 32.1%
2013 31.5%
2014 31.5%

Union coverage is highly concentrated

Unionized employees in Canada remain clustered in a few large unions and labour congresses.

There are four types of unions in Canada:

  1. National;
  2. International;
  3. Independent local organization; and
  4. Directly chartered local.

Compared to 2013, there has been virtually no change in the distribution of unionized employees by union type in 2014. National unions continue to represent 69.6% of total unionized employees, followed by International unions (25%) (Chart 2-A). Independent local organizations represent almost 3.9% of unionized employees, and Directly chartered locals still retain the smallest share (1.6%).

Chart 2-A: Share of covered employees, by organization type, 2014

Chart 2A, Share of covered employees, by organization type, 2014. Details in table following the chart.
Description Chart 2-A: Share of covered employees, by organization type, 2014
Organization type Share of covered employees
National 69.6%
International 25.0%
Independent local 39.0%
Directly chartered 1.6%

Note: Percentages do not sum to 100% due to rounding

Chart 2-B: Share of unions, by organization type, 2014

Chart 2B, Share of unions, by organization type, 2014. Details in table following the chart.
Description Share of unions, by organization type, 2014
Organization type Share of unions
Directly Chartered 37.7%
Independent 31.6%
National 25.5%
International 5.3%

Note: Percentages do not sum to 100% due to rounding

Directly chartered locals and Independent local organizations continue to account for more than two thirds (69.3%) of all unions, followed by National (25.5%) and International (5.3%) unions (Chart 2-B).

In 2014, almost 45% of all unionized employees belonged to one of only eight large unions, each of which represents more than 100,000 employees. Of these, five were National and three International. On the other hand, 11.9% of unionized employees belonged to 418 unions (out of a total of 770 unions) representing less than 10,000 employees each. In addition, 1.9% of unionized employees belonged to 278 even smaller unions, with less than 1,000 employees each.

In 2014, most unions (80.9%) were affiliated with a labour congress. The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) continued to represent the largest proportion of unionized employees (68.8%), followed by the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), which represented 6.9% of unionized employees (Appendix 7 and Chart 3). Just over 19% of all unionized employees were not affiliated with a labour congress.

Chart 3: Union coverage rate in Canada (%), 1998-2014

Chart 3, Union coverage rate in Canada, 1998-2014. Details in table following the chart.
Description Union coverage rate in Canada (%), 1998-2014
Congress affiliation Percentage Union coverage rate
Canadian Labour Congress 68.8%
Unaffiliated unions 19.1%
Confédération des syndicats nationaux 6.9%
Centrale des syndicats du Québec 2.7%
Centrale des syndicats démocratiques 1.6%
American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations only 0.8%
Confederation of Canadian Unions 0.2%

Labour Congress affiliation changes and union mergers

Four unions, which previously had no affiliation, became affiliated to a labour congress during 2014:

  • the Association des professeurs(es) du Campus Notre-Dame-de-Foy (115 members) and the Syndicat des professeures et professeurs de l'Université du Québec en Outaouais (222 members) affiliated with the CSN;
  • the Syndicat des salariés de Vic Royal (241 members) affiliated with the Centrale des syndicats démocratique (CSD); and the Syndicat des employées et employés professionnels-les et de bureau-Québec-local 610 (432 members) affiliated with the CLC.

Only one merger between two unions was observed during 2014: The Wilfrid Laurier University Staff Association and its 583 members joined the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation

Legislative and Regulatory Changes

A number of amendments were made to labour legislation in Canada in 2014 that will have an impact on union certification and decertification processes.

At the federal level, Bill C-525, the Employees' Voting Rights Act, received Royal Assent on December 16, 2014 and will come into force on June 16, 2015. The Bill modifies the union de/certification rules under the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Public Service Labour Relations Act by moving from a card-check system (whereby a union is certified by demonstrating majority support) to a mandatory vote system (whereby a union is de/certified based on a secret ballot representation vote). Parties seeking the de/certification of a union will need the support of at least 40% of employees in the bargaining unit to hold a vote. Results of a representation vote are to be determined on the basis of the majority of ballots cast.

Changes to union certification rules also occurred in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2014. Bill 22, An Act to Amend the Labour Relations Act, came into force on June 5, 2014. It modified the Labour Relations Act to reintroduce the mandatory vote system for union certification, reversing legislative amendments enacted in 2012 that allowed union certification with the support of at least 65% of employees in a bargaining unit. Under the new rules, the union may hold a representation vote if it has the support of at least 40% of employees in the bargaining unit. When 70% of eligible employees or more participate in the vote, a union can be certified if it obtains the support of a majority of those who cast a ballot. If fewer than 70% of eligible employees vote, union certification can be obtained only if a majority of employees in the bargaining unit have cast a ballot in favour.

In Quebec, legislation (Bill 8, An Act to amend the Labour Code with respect to certain employees of farming business) came into force on October 22, 2014 to replace a provision in the provincial Labour Code that excluded farm workers from the right to unionize and bargain collectively unless at least three such employees were ordinarily and continuously employed in a farm business. In 2013, the Superior Court of Quebec ruled that the exclusion violated the right to freedom of association guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. The amended Labour Code now provides for limited associational rights and protections for workers in farming businesses where fewer than three employees are ordinarily and continuously employed.

Appendix 1: Union coverage in Canada, 1998-2014

Year Covered Employees (000s) Employees (000s) Union Coverage Rate (%)
1998 4,010 11,633 34.5
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

Source: Labour Program, ESDC

Appendix 2 - Labour organizations with 30,000 or more covered employees, 2014

Name Affiliation Number
Canadian Union of Public Employees CLC 630,050
National Union of Public and General Employees CLC 340,000
UNIFOR CLC 300,152
United Food and Commercial Workers Canada AFL-CIO / CLC 245,592
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 178,093
Fédération de la santé et des services sociaux CSN 126,932
Service Employees International Union CtW / CLC 118,991
Teamsters Canada CtW / CLC 93,351
Laborers’ International Union of North America AFL-CIO / CLC 90,000
Alberta Union of Provincial Employees Independent national 87,843
Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario CLC 77,927
FTQ Construction CLC 69,914
Christian Labour Association of Canada Independent national 65,986
Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation CLC 65,690
Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec Independent national 65,038
Fédération des employées et employés de services publics inc. CSN 60,700
Ontario Nurses’ Association CLC 60,000
Fédération des syndicats de l’enseignement CSQ 60,000
Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada Independent national 58,703
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 54,600
Canadian Union of Postal Workers CLC 54,470
International Union of Operating Engineers AFL-CIO / CLC 52,789
United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America CLC 50,000
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers AFL-CIO / CLC 50,000
Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association CLC 49,811
Alberta Teachers’ Association Independent national 44,102
British Columbia Teachers’ Federation CLC 43,563
British Columbia Nurses’ Union Independent national 41,000
Amalgamated Transit Union AFL-CIO / CLC 38,000
Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union CLC 36,287
Syndicat de la fonction publique du Québec et parapublique du Québec Independent national 34,904
Fédération nationale des enseignantes et des enseignants du Québec CSN 34,000
Fédération autonome de l’enseignement Independent national 32,500

Source: Labour Program, ESDC

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
  • Ind.: Independent National Organization

Appendix 3 - Union coverage, by type of union and affiliation, 2013

2013 Unions 2013 Locals 2013 Covered workers 2014 Unions 2014 Locals 2014 Covered workers
Number Distribution
(%)
Number Distribution
(%)
National 197 10,724 3,289,674 69.8 196 10,661 3,305,983 69.6
Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) 52 7,109 2,122,599 45.1 51 7,102 2,122,332 44.7
Independent national 108 1,308 702,158 14.9 108 1,303 720,817 15.2
Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) 17 1,811 323,384 6.9 17 1,762 320,836 6.7
Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ) 14 420 128,648 2.7 14 422 129,486 2.7
Confederation of Canadian Unions (CCU) 4 23 7,924 0.2 4 23 7,566 0.2
Centrale des syndicats démocratiques (CSD) 2 53 4,961 0.1 2 49 4,946 0.1
International 40 1,240 1,162,571 24.7 41 1,263 1,187,365 25.0
American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) / Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) 30 1,133 902,719 19.2 31 1,156 927,396 19.5
Change to Win (CtW) / Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) 3 27 222,342 4.7 3 27 222,342 4.7
American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) only 4 72 35,518 0.8 4 72 35,635 0.7
Independent international 3 8 1,992 0.0 3 8 1,992 0.0
Directly Chartered 290 N/A 76,455 1.6 290 N/A 76,455 1.6
Centrale des syndicats démocratiques (CSD) 287 N/A 70,400 1.5 287 N/A 70,400 1.5
Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) 1 N/A 6,000 0.1 1 N/A 6,000 0.1
Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) 2 N/A 55 0.0 2 N/A 55 0.0
Independent local 245 263 181,758 3.9 243 265 183,429 3.9
Total 772 12,227 4,710,458 100.0 772 12,189 4,753,232 100.0

Source: Labour Program, ESDC

Appendix 4 - Canadian Labour Congress coverage, by affiliation, 2013 and 2014

2013 Covered Employees 2014 Covered Employees
Number Distribution
(%)
Number Distribution
(%)
National unions 2,122,599 65.4 2,122,332 64.9
Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) only 2,122,599 65.4 2,122,332 64.9
International unions 1,125,061 34.6 1,149,738 35.1
AFL-CIO / CLC 222,342 6.8 222,342 6.8
CtW/ CLC 457,669 14.0 457,669 14.0
Directly Chartered 55 0.0 55 0.0
Total 3,247,715 100.0 3,272,125 100.0

Source: Labour Program, ESDC

Appendix 5: Composition of unions in Canada, by type of organization, 2013 and 2014

2013 Unions 2013 Covered Workers 2014 Unions 2014 Covered Workers
Number Distribution
(%)
Number Distribution
(%)
Number Distribution
(%)
Number Distribution
(%)
National 196 25.4 3,282,898 69.7 196 25.5 3,305,983 69.6
International 41 5.1 1,169,347 24.8 41 5.3 1,187,365 25.0
Independent local 245 31.7 181,758 3.9 243 31.6 183,429 3.9
Directly Chartered 290 37.6 76,455 1.6 290 37.6 76,455 1.6
Total 772 100.0 4,710,458 100.0 770 100.0 4,753,232 100.0

Source: Labour Progam, ESDC

Note: Percentages do not sum to 100% due to rounding

Appendix 6: Composition of unions in Canada, by size

Composition of unions in Canada, by size, 2013
National International Independent Local Directly CharteredFootnote 2 Total
Unions Employees Unions Employees Unions Employees Unions Employees Unions Employees
under 1,000 81 29,281 7 2,976 193 59,705 N/A N/A 281 91,962
1,000-9,999 72 270,149 16 66,713 51 112,053 N/A N/A 139 448,915
10,000-29,999 17 304,650 8 125,598 1 10,000 N/A N/A 26 440,248
30,000-49,999 9 342,403 1 37,000 - - N/A N/A 10 379,403
50,000-99,999 12 763,300 6 390,395 - - N/A N/A 18 1,153,695
100,000 and over 5 1,573,151 3 546,665 - - N/A N/A 8 2,119,780
Grand Total 196 3,282,898 41 1,169,347 245 181,758 290 76,455 772 4,710,458

Source: Labour Program, ESDC

Composition of unions in Canada, by size, 2014
National International Independent Local Directly CharteredFootnote 3 Total
Unions Employees Unions Employees Unions Employees Unions Employees Unions Employees
under 1,000 82 29,892 8 3,775 188 57,388 N/A N/A 278 91,055
1,000-9,999 71 270,295 15 65,565 54 116,041 N/A N/A 140 451,901
10,000-29,999 18 338,131 8 127,120 1 10,000 N/A N/A 27 475,251
30,000-49,999 8 316,167 1 38,000 - - N/A N/A 9 354,167
50,000-99,999 12 776,271 6 397,870 - - N/A N/A 18 1,174,141
100,000 and over 5 1,575,227 3 555,035 - - N/A N/A 8 2,130,262
Grand Total 196 3,305,983 41 1,187,365 243 183,429 290 76,455 770 4,753,232

Source: Labour Program, ESDC

Appendix 7: Union coverage, by congress affiliation, 2013 and 2014

2013 Covered Workers 2014 Covered Workers
Number Distribution (%) Number Distribution (%)
Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) 3,247,715 68.9 3,272,125 68.8
American Federation of Labour and Congress of
Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) /
Canadian Labour Congress (CLC)
909,495 19.3 927,396 19.5
Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) only 2,115,823 44.9 2,122,332 44.6
Change to Win (CtW) / Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) 222,342 4.7 222,342 4.7
Directly Chartered 55 0.0 55 0.0
Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) 329,384 7.0 326,836 6.9
Federation 323,384 6.9 320,836 6.7
Directly Chartered 6,000 0.1 6,000 0.1
Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ) 128,648 2.7 129,486 2.7
Centrale des syndicats démocratiques (CSD) 75,361 1.6 75,361 1.6
Federation 4,961 0.1 4,946 0.1
Directly Chartered 70,400 1.5 70,400 1.5
Confederation of Canadian Unions (CCU) 7,924 0.2 7,566 0.2
American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) only 35,518 0.8 35,635 0.8
Unaffiliated unions 885,908 18.8 906,238 19.1
Independent international 1,992 0.0 1,992 0.0
Independent local 181,728 3.9 183,429 3.9
Independent national 702,158 14.9 720,817 15.2
Total 4,710,458 100.0 4,753,232 100.0

Source: Labour Program, ESDC

Methodology

In 2014, the Labour Program reviewed the methodology used to collect information from labour organizations as well as the calculation of the union coverage rate.

Prior to 2014, organizations were asked to provide an estimate of the number of unionized employees they represent as of the beginning of the year (January 1st). Those estimates were considered to be representative of that calendar year. However, the review determined that the January 1st data point was better thought of as reflecting the previous calendar year. Consequently, the previously published series was shifted back one year – for example, the union coverage statistic that was previously given for 2013 is now reported as 2012. For this year’s census, organizations were asked to estimate union coverage for December 31st. To avoid data breaks, respondents were asked for the coverage estimate for 2013 as well as for 2014.

The collection period was also assessed in this review. Prior to 2014, data was collected from organizations during May and June of the current year. It was determined that the collection period should be moved closer to the reference date, December 31st. Letters and emails requesting data were therefore sent out to organizations in December 2014 and they were asked to respond by the end of January 2015. This practice will continue for future years.

The review also evaluated the calculation of the union coverage rate in Canada. The coverage rate had been calculated as a proportion of all “non-agricultural paid workers” (NAPW). NAPW is derived from Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey (LFS). Given that NAPW includes the self -employed, a group that is largely unable to take part in collective bargaining, the review determined that NAPW should be replaced by a count of only employees. Going forward, the union coverage rate in Canada will be calculated as a proportion of all employees in Canada, as derived from the LFS. The union coverage time series has also been recalculated accordingly.

If the requested information is not provided by the labour organization, the latest reported figures are used.

Definitions

Union coverage: All persons, whether union members or not, who are covered by a collective agreement.

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 employer, and they pay dues to the local.

Union: The unit of labour organizations 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.

National Union: A union that charters locals in Canada only.

International Union: A union that charters locals in Canada and the United States. For the purpose of this survey only workers in Canada are reported.

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

Directly Chartered Local: A local 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

Statistics Canada reported the union coverage rate as 31.1% in 2013 and 30.4% in 2014. Statistics Canada coverage rate is based on Labour Force Survey (LFS) data collected monthly from a sample of working age individuals. Labour Program’s union coverage data is collected directly from labour organizations using a self reporting survey.

Return to footnote 1 referrer

Footnote 2

Only aggregate data is available for Directly Chartered Unions.

Return to footnote 2 referrer

Footnote 3

Only aggregate data is available for Directly Chartered Unions.

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