Frequently Asked Questions

CUPE Uncategorized

Frequently asked questions about joining CUPE:


How many airline members does CUPE have across Canada?

CUPE is Canada’s largest union of flight attendants. We represent 15,000 flight attendants at WestJet (mainline) Sunwing, Air Transat, Calm Air, Cathay Pacific, First Air, Canadian North, Air Canada, Air Georgian, and CanJet.


Why should I join a union?

Some of the minimum benefits you now receive from an employer result from the fights unions have won for their members over the last 100 years. The weekend, the right to pensions, vacations, minimum wage laws, human rights legislation and health and safety regulations are examples of the gains working people have won acting together in unions.

Today, unions like CUPE help members bargain for progress at work through higher wages, better job security, and better health and safety standards. Without a union, each employee must negotiate their own wages and working conditions with their employer; but by acting together, employees can have some real bargaining power, and the power to remedy situations where the employer has violated the terms and conditions of the collective agreement. In short, joining a union gives workers a better livelihood, and a stronger voice at work.


What is a collective agreement? How will CUPE help us achieve a strong collective agreement?

A collective agreement can contain any terms and conditions that are agreed upon by the union and the employer. Typically, collective agreements contain provisions for rates of pay, shift premiums, vacations, statutory holidays, seniority, job postings, job security, benefit plans, uniform allowances, sick leave, leaves of absence, access to personnel files, disciplinary procedures and the grievance procedure to enforce the rights contained in the collective agreement.

Local unions of CUPE are encouraged to determine what conditions of employment are important to them, so that they can be included in a collective agreement. In addition, local unions receive guidance from experienced representatives and access to information about working conditions in other similar workplaces. In addition, CUPE provides specialized expertise in research, health and safety, education, job evaluation and legal matters to assist local unions in achieving their goals.
A collective agreement does not take away an employer’s right to manage its business. The employer still makes management decisions with respect to how the organization will be run, but it must do so in accordance with the rights of employees as contained in the collective agreement.


How do CUPE’s airline contracts compare with contracts for non-CUPE airlines like Jazz and WestJet?

Pay for ground delays and layovers. Longer rest periods for longer flights. Clearly established rules to address pay cheque discrepancies. Higher starting hourly wages and higher pay for Cabin Crew Leaders. Footwear and dry-cleaning allowances. Better retirement security through employer-contribution pension plans. When you compare other contracts negotiated by CUPE in the airline sector, the CUPE advantage is clear. Read more here using our comparator chart to see how the CUPE advantage can benefit you.


We agree that we need to certify, but is CUPE the right fit?

CUPE’s goal is not to become your voice; it is to amplify your voice. We are a large organization with 650,000 members, and our 2,400 locals range in size of from 20 members to 20,000. What we have in common, and what makes us strong, is our “members first” approach. It is our members who are calling the shots when it comes to setting bargaining priorities, electing leaders, and deciding the directions of the national union. CUPE is the right fit for WestJet Encore flight attendants because we have decades of experience of representing flight attendants, and because we actively encourage the autonomy of our local unions.
No one knows what is best for WestJet Encore flight attendants better than flight attendants themselves – which is why CUPE is committed to empowering you to get the best deal possible at work.


Will CUPE impose things we don’t want?

CUPE was founded on the concept of local autonomy and gives its locals an unmatched degree of autonomy among labour organizations in Canada. As long as the local is following the CUPE constitution, it is free to pursue whatever actions that it sees fit to best represent its members.


What is the difference between an Association and a Union?

In terms of the law, the Canada Industrial Relations Board would consider both an Association and Union if they met the definition of “trade union” within the meaning of Section 3 of the Canada Labour Code. The Code defines a trade union as any organization of employees, the purposes of which include the regulation of relations between employers and employees. That being said, adequate representation requires sufficient experience, expertise, and resources.

As a union, CUPE is a member of the Canada Labour Congress and has over 670,000 members in various sectors of the economy, including 15,000 members in the airline sector. In this case, the difference between CUPE and an association is a question of who has the resources, experience, and expertise to best represent WestJet Cabin Crew Members. With unparalleled legal, education, research, and communications resources, longstanding expertise on issues affecting flight attendants, and a $97 million fund to support members during job action, CUPE is the standout best option for WestJet CCMs.

Will CUPE impose terms from other airline collective agreements on us? 

No, absolutely not. CUPE cannot and will not impose any terms from other Collective Agreements (CAs), including seniority or any other provision in any other CUPE CA, on any WestJet CA. Members of the local decide democratically what is in (and what is not in) their CA.


How does my workplace become unionized?

The Canadian Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) sets out the process for unionization. Workers contact a union and meet with a union organizer. Workers sign cards applying for membership in the union, and authorizing the union to represent them in negotiations with their employer. Federal law requires CUPE to collect $5 from each worker when they sign a card. If at least 35 per cent of the workers sign membership cards, the CIRB will hold a vote, using a secret ballot, and anyone who is in the bargaining unit the union applied to represent can vote. If the majority of workers who cast ballots vote to unionize, then the union is certified.

If more than 50 per cent sign membership cards, the CIRB can certify the union without holding a vote; however, in some cases, the CIRB will hold a vote even when more than 50 per cent of the workers signed cards. Once the union is certified, the union will serve notice to the employer to begin negotiating your first contract. The local certification process is confidential. Employers are not entitled to know who signed cards, and all votes are held by secret ballot.


Is there an application fee when signing a union membership card?

Section 31(b) of the Canada Industrial Relations Board Regulations, 2012, SOR/2001-520 requires that each applicant for membership in a trade union “has paid at least five dollars to the trade union for or within the six-month period immediately before the date on which the application was filed.”


Can an employer fire an employee, cut their hours of work, or discipline them because they decided to join a union?

Absolutely not. The Canada Labour Code protects every employees’ right to join a trade union of their choice and to participate in its lawful activities. If the employer attempts to coerce, intimidate, threaten, use promises, or undue influence to persuade you from joining a union or the union of your choice, that would be an unfair labour practice. CUPE would file an unfair labour practice complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Board and seek full redress if the employer or anyone acting on behalf of the employer violated your right to organize. 
You should contact CUPE immediately if you think the employer has done or is about to do anything that would be a violation of your right to join the trade union of your choice.


Is my privacy protected?

A Labour Board Officer oversees the vote and this officer ensures that there is no interference by the employer or the union. The voting process is confidential.  No one will ever know how you voted and at no time during the process will your employer know whether or not you have signed a union membership card.  The secrecy of the vote and card signer information is protected by law.


What are union dues?

Union dues are collected in order to help local unions pay their expenses, and to provide local unions with national support and services like staff representatives; education, research, and communications specialists; Worker’s Compensation, health and safety, and pay equity specialists; and legal representatives. We believe that a percentage solution is the most fair and equitable and part-time employees would only pay the percentage of hours actually worked. CUPE National dues are 0.85 per cent. Your union dues are tax deductible, and CUPE has no additional application fees. On average, most local unions have a total dues levy of 1.5 per cent – that’s about the cost of a cup of coffee a day to help secure better wages and working conditions for you and all your colleagues.


What happens after we become unionized?

You will elect members from your own group to represent you on a bargaining committee. The bargaining committee will be comprised of your members, local representation and a CUPE representative. The bargaining committee will negotiate a first collective agreement for your bargaining unit and this collective agreement will be brought back to your bargaining unit to be ratified. Only your bargaining unit will vote on your collective agreement.


How will our union operate? Who will control our union?

In CUPE, the members are in charge. Local unions in CUPE have democratic control over their activities. Members of the local union decide, at regular local meetings, on issues that are important to the local and the membership.  The local union itself is run by elected members of the local union. Each CUPE local decides its priorities for bargaining, when to settle a new contract, and how to manage funds. CUPE’s strength comes from individual members working toward common goals, like improving wages and benefits, improving health and safety conditions, and making your workplace better.


What role will CUPE staff play in our union?

CUPE representatives have a voice but no vote during local membership meetings. All CUPE representatives have a strong knowledge, experience and commitment to advocating to improve the lives of working people. They are skilled professionals with the communications and organizing skills to advocate on your behalf within the union, and with government and other organizations.


We are located across Canada. Will CUPE offer staff representatives to all of our offices?

There will be local representatives accessible in every base for all local matters including local grievances, arbitrations, workers’ compensations files, membership meetings, discipline meetings and any other matter that requires assistance. There will also be a representative assigned at the national level for matters such as bargaining policy grievances and arbitrations and labour management. As well, your elected Officers will benefit from CUPE training. Additionally, CUPE has specialist representatives in the fields of health and safety and research that can support the work of the local executive in conjunction with their staff representatives.


Will we be entitled to pay equity?

When a group becomes unionized the law requires that the pay equity plan be revisited. The employer is required to establish a joint union and management pay equity committee; the union selects the union members and the employer selects its own members. CUPE will provide the local a pay equity specialist to work with the union committee to ensure all employees are treated in a fair and equitable manner.


Will changing representation cause us to lose our current agreement, including things like our profit-sharing and ESPP?

The statutory freeze applies to all your working conditions, including company policy and benefits such as profit-sharing and ESPP. Our legal and financial researchers will ensure that you have the access to the company financial information required to ensure that you are justly rewarded for your hard work.


Won’t joining a union hurt our company’s bottom line, and affect our shares?

Absolutely not! In fact, through positive labour management relations, unions can help companies prosper, because a happy and healthy workforce is essential for the success of the company. Furthermore, CUPE cares about growth and job protection in the companies where our members work. Our job as a union is to make sure the people who make the company profitable – the everyday workers like you – are being compensated and treated fairly, so that the company can continue to succeed and grow.


Don’t unions just protect lazy people?

Unions have a duty to protect all employees in a bargaining unit. All union members have the right to be protected against arbitrary or discriminatory treatment.