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Federal government restores former certification and decertification processes for unionization in federal workplaces

Three years ago, the Federal Government passed the Employees’ Voting Rights Act, which reformed the Canada Labour Code’s certification and decertification rules for federally regulated workplaces.

The most significant change was the removal of the 50 year old “card check” system. Card check allowed a union to be automatically certified without a vote when it could demonstrate that the majority of the employees in the proposed bargaining unit has signed membership cards and paid a nominal fee.

The other change was lowering the threshold for support for decertification from 50% +1 to 40%.

In 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, the current Federal Government has reversed those changes.

Bill C-4 Restores the Former Certification and Decertification Requirements

Bill C-4 comes into force on June 22, 2017 and restores the certification and decertification processes to their prior status.  The key amendments to the Canada Labour Code under Bill C-4 are as follows:


  • Mandatory secret ballot for all certification votes is repealed. A secret ballot vote will now only be required where a union demonstrates evidence of support of 35-50% of the proposed bargaining unit.
  • If a union provides membership evidence of more than 50% of the employees in the proposed bargaining unit, the union may become certified without a secret ballot vote.


  • Bill C-4 raises the threshold for decertification of a union from 40% back to 50% +1.

Financial Disclosure Obligations

  • Bill C-4 also repeals the financial disclosure obligations of unions set in motion through Bill C-377 under the Income Tax Act.

Transition Provisions: How Does Bill C-4 Affect Recent Applications for Certification or Decertification?

The amendments to the Canada Labour Code under Bill C-4 will only apply to applications for certification or decertification filed with the Canada Industrial Relations Board after June 22, 2017.  Any applications filed with the Canada Industrial Relations Board prior to June 22, 2017 will be subject to the requirements and thresholds under the previous Bill C-525.

In the Pipeline for 2017: The Right to a Flexible Work Arrangement

The Federal government continues to deliberate over how to provide full-time federal employees with rights to flexible work. We expect to see proposed amendments to the Canada Labour Code in the coming months. We also expect to see changes which limit unpaid internships and introduce an 18 month parental leave.

If you have any questions with respect to these changes or the Canada Labour Code more generally, please contact any member of our National Labour & Employment Group.

Bill C-4 Canada Labour Code card check certification Federally Regulated Employers union certification union decertification union financial disclosure unionization



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