Table of contents

Overview

In July 2020, the Restoring Balance in Alberta’s Workplaces Act introduced new rules regarding union financial statements and union dues elections. These rules were not proclaimed at that time.

Since then, the Ministry of Labour and Immigration has consulted with stakeholders and developed new regulations providing further clarity for these rules.

Once the rules are in effect:

  • dues payers can choose to opt in to pay the portion of their union dues that go towards political activities, social causes, charities, non-governmental organizations, or organizations supportive of a political party
  • dues payers will continue to pay dues for core activities under Alberta’s labour relations legislation or those that directly benefit dues payers in the workplace
  • unions will provide members with annual financial statements

Union dues elections

New rules for union dues elections allow people who pay union dues, assessments, or initiation fees (these people are called dues payers) to opt-in to pay the portion of union dues that fund non-core activities. This ensures that dues payers are not required to pay union dues, assessments or fees that fund non-core activities or causes that the worker may not support.

Dues payers are still required to pay union dues, assessments and initiation fees for core activities.

Non-core activities

Under Alberta’s labour relations legislation non-core activities are political activities and other causes including:

  • social causes
  • charities
  • non-governmental organizations
  • organizations supportive of a political party

Regulations clarify that non-core activities are to be those activities that do not directly benefit dues payers in the workplace.

Non-core dues are the union dues, assessments or initiation fees that are used to fund non-core activities.

Core activities

Core activities are activities under Alberta’s labour relations legislation and include activities related to collective bargaining and representing union members.

Regulations clarify that core activities are to be activities that directly benefit union members in the workplace. Core activities include:

  • collectively advancing and advocating for workplace goals, including creating public awareness and lobbying
  • participating in legal proceedings
  • complying with requirements under the law
  • supporting or representing union members in proceedings, investigations or hearings related to their employment
  • educating and training union members
  • providing benefits, establishing funds and offering money to union members in relation to their employment
  • negotiating and administering collective agreements to which the trade union is a party
  • engaging in activities that relate to the operation and governance of the trade union, including:
    • developing and maintaining the trade union’s bylaws and constitution
    • administration of the trade union
    • recruiting new members in preparation for certification of the trade union under labour relations legislation
    • educating and training the union’s staff
    • operating hiring halls and other means of assigning work

Core dues are the union dues, assessments or initiation fees that fund core activities.

Professional associations

Alberta Teachers’ Association

Since the Alberta Teachers’ Association functions as both a union and association for teachers, a portion of the Alberta Teachers’ Association dues payers’ fees go toward the Alberta Teachers’ Association’s professional governance activities.

The Alberta Teachers’ Association will be required to indicate the total amounts or percentage of funds that goes towards professional governance, as well as the amounts and percentages of core and non-core union dues.

Dues payers are required to pay both core union dues to their association in its role as a union and fees related to the Alberta Teachers’ Association’s professional development and professional governance responsibilities.

Academic staff, graduate student, and postdoctoral fellow associations

Since faculty and graduate student associations function as both a union and academic association for faculty and graduate students, a portion of dues payers’ fees go toward their association’s professional governance activities.

At the time of implementing their union dues election process, faculty, postdoctoral fellow and graduate student associations will be required to determine the portion of membership fees which go toward their role as a union.

Dues payers are required to pay both core union dues to their association in its role as a union, and dues or fees related to their association’s academic professional governance responsibilities.

Elections

Unions will hold elections for people who pay dues, assessments or initiation fees (dues payers). These elections give dues payers the opportunity to decide whether to pay non-core dues.

If a dues payer chooses to fund non-core activities, they are deciding to fund all non-core activities through their dues. They cannot choose to only fund some non-core activities through their dues.  An election stays in effect until a dues payer revokes the previous choice during an election and revocation period.

If a dues payer does not make an election, employers can only deduct union dues to fund core activities. The dues payer would receive another opportunity to make a decision during the annual election (or more frequently if outlined in a collective agreement), or prior to the union making a material change to non-core dues amounts.

If dues payers are not provided an opportunity to make an election or revoke a previous election when required, they can raise the matter with the Labour Relations Board.

Before an election

Before an election occurs, unions must provide their dues payers with the following information:

  • a list of activities, people or organizations that non-core union dues would fund
  • the total amounts or percentages of dues that the union will use to fund core activities and non-core activities
  • the amount or percentage of core dues a dues payer is required to pay, and the amount or percentage that the dues payer would pay if they elect to fund non-core activities
  • any other information a dues payer needs or reasonably requests to make an informed decision

Election process

A union will provide the specific processes for dues payers to opt-in to pay non-core dues. A valid election will:

  • be in writing
  • include the name of the employee making the election
  • be signed by the employee making the election
  • be signed by a union representative on the union’s behalf
  • state that the employee agrees to pay non-core dues, including any non-material changes to the amount to be paid for the non-core dues
  • include the amount or percentage that will be charged to the employee for non-core dues (at the time of the election)

Election timing

Elections for union dues must be held:

  • at least once every 12 months or any additional times established in the collective agreement
  • prior to the union making a material change to the non-core dues amount

Unions have the flexibility to determine the number of days appropriate to ensure their dues payers have enough time to make a decision.

The rules for union dues elections took effect February 1, 2022. The first elections must occur by July 31, 2022.

Newly hired employees will have the opportunity to make their initial election when they are first required to pay core dues to their union.

Union members in the construction sector who pay dues on a non-continuous basis per their employment status may only make an initial election once for each trade union for which they pay dues.

After an election

Any changes to a dues payer’s union dues, assessments or initiation fees as a result of an election will occur as soon as possible after an election is made.

Revoking an election

Dues payers can revoke a previously made decision during their union’s election and revocation period. During this period, a union will provide the specific processes and logistics for dues payers to revoke a previous choice. A valid revocation will:

  • be in writing
  • include the name of the employee making the revocation
  • be signed by the employee making the revocation
  • be signed by a union representative on the union’s behalf
  • clearly indicate that the employee is rescinding a prior election to pay the amount or percentage of dues going toward non-core activities

Union financial statements

The rules for union financial statements are scheduled to take effect on August 1, 2022.

Once the rules take affect, unions must provide financial statements to their members as soon as possible following the end of the union’s fiscal year.

The financial statements must:

  • be provided to members in writing and free of charge
  • be provided in a way that is accessible to a member and allows the member to keep the statement and review it in the future
  • contain enough information to accurately disclose the financial condition and operation of the union to its members
  • cover the preceding fiscal year and include a union’s income, expenditures, assets and liabilities
  • be signed by a person with sufficient knowledge of the financial affairs of the union.

How the law applies

Union dues election and financial disclosure are included in labour relations legislation, including the:

Disclaimer: In the event of any discrepancy between this information and Alberta labour relations legislation, the legislation is considered correct.

Resources

This webinar provides information on the election of union dues and financial disclosure regulations to help stakeholders prepare to implement them.

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