The Ontario Labour Relations Act (OLRA) is the labour law that covers collective bargaining. It defines the rights and responsibilities of most employees, unions and employers in the province.

The law recognizes your freedom to join and participate in the union of your choice. The OLRA makes it illegal for your employer to penalize you or threaten you in any way because of your involvement with a union. It is also makes it illegal for your employer to try to stop you from becoming a union member.

The Ontario Labour Relations Board is a neutral tribunal with the authority to impose penalties for labour law violations.

If you chose to join the Intentional Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, we will make sure that you know your rights and that your rights are respected.

This site provides you with some general information about your rights and Ontario’s labour law. It will also walk you through the two major legal steps toward unionization: certification and voting.

Your IBEW organizing representative will be happy to answer any and all questions you have. In an organizing campaign the most important job for us is to ensure that the workers are aware of their rights and to educate them about the union and the certification process


Union organizers assist employees in forming unions on the job to give them the same opportunity for good wages, dignity, respect, and decent working conditions that our members already have. To get in touch with a union organizer, complete the attached form. The completed form will be forwarded automatically to an organizer at the union. It will not be transmitted or disclosed otherwise.

The IBEW wants you to have the opportunity to enjoy the same good wages, dignity, respect, and decent working conditions that our union members already have.

The IBEW has full-time union organizers who can explain the process of forming a union in your workplace and make sure you know your rights every step of the way. We promise you that you will not be harassed by anyone here. You will be in control and we only call when you want us to. The final decisions will always be left up to you and your co-workers.
All information is kept confidential.

Do you want to know more about joining the IBEW?

We need some basic information so we can provide the best possible support and assistance to you and your co-workers. To make sure that we can respond as quickly as possible, please fill out as much information on this form as you can

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If you prefer you can call the IBEW at 416-510-3530 and ask for the organizing department. One of our organizers would be happy to answer your questions.


Who is eligible to join your union?

You are eligible to join a union as long as you meet the definition of an “employee” under the OLRA. People in positions of economic dependence on an employer (and those whose relationship to the employer is more like that of an employee than an independent contractor) are considered to be employees. In almost all cases the OLRB has ruled that these independent sub contractors are in fact employees, thus giving them a say about joining. Those who exercise managerial functions, excluding working Forman, are not eligible for to vote on union membership.

What is a confidential employee?

People who work in labour relations – in close association with senior management personnel are regarded as confidential employees. Confidential employees are excluded from union membership. Usually the secretary to the personnel manager, the executive secretary to the administrator or secretaries to senior department heads in large organizations are considered confidential employees.

Defining management

Employees whose normal duties are substantially involved in the management decision-making process are considered to be management. Management is excluded from the voting process. Project Managers, Estimators and other office staff would also be excluded from the voting process.

Answering the following questions will help you determine if an employee has “substantial,” rather than “casual,” involvement in management.

Do they have the power or authority to…

  • Hire or fire or to recommend hiring or firing?
  • Discipline employees by imposing suspensions or giving reprimands?
  • Schedule the vacations of other employees?
  • Assign work to other employees?
  • Change work procedures (as opposed to recommending changes only)?
  • To listen to the grievances of employees?
  • To grant wage increases?
  • Do they regularly attend and participate in senior management meetings?

Organizing your union

There are two ways to unionize for collective bargaining rights. Certification is the most common.

The other, voluntary recognition by employer is much less common. With voluntary recognition an employer agrees to recognize the union as the exclusive bargaining agent.

Signing On

Once the IBEW is invited to undertake an organizing campaign in your workplace, you and your co-workers will indicate your desire to join the union by signing union cards.

A signed union card is your first step toward defining yourselves as a member of a bargaining unit and securing collective bargaining rights.

The union then submits the signed cards to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB), providing that at least 40 percent of the employees in your company want to join. This is called making an Application for Certification. The Labour Board requires that the cards be signed by the persons applying for membership. If the board rules that 55% of the eligible employees have signed cards the Board may declare that the Union represents a majority of the workers in the company and can issue certification.

In addition to the cards, an Application for Certification describes your proposed bargaining unit, includes an estimate of the number of employees in your company and outlines a proposed voting procedure.

The union must give a copy of the Application for Certification to the employer within two days of filing with the OLRB. It is important to note that the employer will not be told who has or who has not signed cards. The employer then has two days to respond to the application.

If OLRB concludes that the union represents less than 55% but more than 40% of the workers the OLRB will conduct a secret ballot vote within five days of the application filing.

The Vote

The secret ballot vote is the second step. If a majority of the voters in your bargaining unit favor the IBEW, the Labour Board will certify your union

Protection During Organizing

Once the IBEW applies for certification on your behalf, your employer may not alter your wage rates or any other condition of your employment without the union’s consent.

This important law takes effect on the date the union applies for certification. It remains in effect until the collective agreement is signed. The law ensures that your working conditions are not changed and that benefits are not taken away from you during an organizing campaign.

The Certification Hearing

Certification hearings generally take place if there is a dispute about the voting constituency or whether the bargaining unit described in the Application for Certification is the appropriate unit for collective bargaining.

The Labour Board can hold certification hearings only after the vote has taken place.

Although the Labour Board cannot hold a certification hearing prior to the vote it can order that ballot boxes be sealed or that certain votes be segregated. Challenges to the membership evidence (signed cards) cannot be considered at certification hearings.


Yes. The employer never finds out who signed the cards to join the IBEW or even how many signed. You can be assured that your decision to join will be kept confidential.