1. Home
  2. Knowledge Base
  3. Bargaining Committees
  4. Key Bargaining Issues Explained
  5. Equity and Human Rights

Equity and Human Rights

Unifor has made significant progress to ensure our collective bargaining process and agreements are viewed and negotiated through an equity and human rights lens. This is done in order to remove systemic barriers,  eliminate discriminatory practices, and raise employment standards and protections for equityseeking groups, such as Indigenous workers, women, people with disabilities, people of colour, LGBTQ workers, and young workers.

Inequality and oppression are deeply rooted within our economic and political systems and institutions, requiring us to continue using our bargaining power to win justice for all workers. To achieve this, we need to ensure that our Local Union leadership and our bargaining committees reflect the diversity of our workplaces and comprise a diversity of voices and experiences.

Building on our success

Since the rollout of our 2016 bargaining program, we have achieved some key bargaining successes. These  include:

  • having 375 active Women Advocates across Canada through our internationally recognized Women’s Advocate Program;
  • targeting incidences of unpaid internships and increasing employment opportunities for young workers; negotiating Paid Education Leave and encouraging participation in education courses for equity-seeking groups,
  • and developing joint labour management committees and processes to investigate and deal with incidences of workplace harassment.

However, despite our bargaining successes, structural inequalities, including racism and discrimination against workers due to their age, gender identity, immigration status, sexual orientation, ability and ethno-cultural background continue to affect our members.

Inequality and oppression are deeply rooted within our economic and political systems and institutions, requiring us to continue using our bargaining power to win justice for all workers.

• The gender wage gap in Canada continues to persist and currently sits at 29 per cent, meaning that on average, women earn approximately 71 cents for every dollar that men earn. This gap is often higher for Indigenous, racialized, newcomer women and women with disabilities.
• Unemployment, underemployment, and low wages continue to disproportionately impact Indigenous workers, workers of colour, LGBTQ, people with disabilities and young workers.
• Workplace safety remains an issue for LGBTQ workers who continue to face harassment, abuse, and discrimination, which leads to isolation and mental health issues.
• Indigenous youth continue to face barriers entering the labour market. According to the latest census figures, the unemployment rate for off-reserve First Nations youth was 23 per cent.

Our negotiations at the bargaining table are also influencing our advocacy outside of the workplace, so that all workers (unionized and non-unionized) have access to basic rights. This is perhaps best illustrated with our bargaining commitment to negotiate workplace jobsecured leave for workers experiencing domestic violence. Our advocacy on this issue by Unifor leaders and activists has resulted in a domestic violence leave law being either introduced or passed in every province and federally. In over 90 per cent of these laws, leave is paid. Our bargaining committees continue to highlight this leave in their collective agreements to both increase awareness and reduce stigma around this issue, while actively working to improve the length of the leave and ensure they are all paid.

Our bargaining priorities

Building upon our previous bargaining program and our successes, Unifor will focus on the following key bargaining priorities:

We must continue to negotiate pay equity into our agreements to reduce the gender wage gap.  Where legislation exists, we must work with employers to ensure they are meeting their obligations under the law. This includes forming the necessary workplace committees, developing concrete plans, processes and timelines towards pay equity implementation, and regular monitoring and evaluation.

We must recognize and address the pay differences that continue to devalue work performed by Indigenous workers, young workers, workers with disabilities and workers of colour.

We must continue to negotiate employment equity plans to ensure our workplaces are reflective of the communities in which they are situated. This means prioritizing the hiring of women, Indigenous Peoples, workers with disabilities, people of colour and young workers. Employment equity language also needs to focus on support, retention and advancement of underrepresented groups.

Look to negotiate community benefits agreements that emphasize hiring opportunities among equityseeking communities with employers expanding operations in a specific geographic area.

Encourage bargaining committees to negotiate that employers provide gender-neutral washrooms at the workplace. This provision would be critical for not only our trans and non-binary identifying members, but help support those who do not feel comfortable, safe, or ready to disclose their gender identity.

Bargaining committees should look to include Disability Confident Workplaces language into contracts to encourage greater hiring, retention, and support for people with a range of disabilities.

Continue negotiating maternity and parental leave top-ups while strengthening language to ensure women workers do not fall behind in wages and pension contributions, while also reaffirming the right for parents absent on leaves to be able to apply for open job postings. We also need to continue negotiating child care subsidies to facilitate parental return to work and help offset rising child care costs.

Make further use of equity surveys prior to bargaining so bargaining committee members can gain a better perspective on the composition and needs of members.

Make sure collective agreements are accessible according to members’ needs. This could include translation of collective bargaining agreements into multiple languages and other accessible formats (e.g. large print, electronic format, etc.).

Negotiate the provision of gender-inclusive personal protective equipment to increase health and safety for women.

Continue ensuring the use of gender-neutral language in our collective bargaining agreements.

Success stories

Canadian Media Producers Association (NABET 700-M): In the film, television and digital media production industry, NABET 700-M made significant gains during their most recent collective bargaining and were able to successfully secure the position of an on-set Women’s Representative on their signatory productions. The new role will open up another path in which their members can report incidents of harassment in the workplace. NABET 700-M recognized that in the precarious nature of freelance work, specific tools and mechanisms to prevent, report and respond to harassment are needed.
Food Basics (Local 414): Our most recent collective agreement included gender-neutral language for the first time, recognizing that the language we use can be a powerful force to promote inclusion and equity.
● Canadian Linen (Local 1015): Members secured a Women’s Advocate Program for their workplace, as well as improvements to violence in the workplace and workplace anti-harassment language.
MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (Locals 112 and 673): The most recent agreement included the introduction of the Women’s Advocate program and a domestic violence leave program. In addition, the contract included a commitment to mark the December 6 National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women with a moment of silence.
Radisson Hotel Saskatoon (Local 650): Members at the hotel successfully negotiated stronger protections against harassment and discrimination in the workplace, including harassment by guests, customers, and vendors, which is especially important in this customer service-oriented sector.
Ontario Equal Pay Coalition: Unifor shared in the major victory when the Ontario Divisional Court ruled in April 2019 that predominantly female nursing home bargaining units must maintain pay equity using the proxy pay equity method. This precedent-setting ruling means the value and pay of the female jobs in these predominantly female workplaces, which lack internal male comparators, must be compared with similar jobs at larger public sector workplaces which have access to male comparators.  Unifor is a long-time supporter of the Coalition, and on this specific legal challenge.

Was this article helpful?

Related Articles