We have had a number of telephone calls over the years from disgruntled unionized employees who seek to take their employer to court over a variety of workplace disputes. Their main complaint is that they tried to go to their union but for one reason or another and that route was not getting them the results they were seeking. So they try to go to court.
Unfortunately, in most situations, the union employee is probably out of luck if a civil action is what they are seeking. The short answer is that the courts have decided that employment disputes in a unionized workplace with a collective agreement in place must be resolved by the union’s own processes with the employer through a procedure called grievance and, if necessary, arbitration. The employee cannot take their work-related issues before a court.
All unions have a legal duty to represent their members in a fair and non-discriminatory manner. In cases in which a union has not acted in accordance with legal requirements, the employee may bring a duty of fair representation complaint against their union with the Labour Relations Board.
In representing both unions and employees, our experience is that if you have an employment dispute with your employer, the best course of action to take is to always contact your union first and be patient about it. Your union can provide you with assistance on how to proceed with your employment dispute.