The special advisors to the Ontario Changing Workplaces Review have issued their final report with proposed changes to the province’s employment standards and labour relations legislation, which could make unionizing franchises easier by subjecting franchisees of the same brand/franchisor to one, centrally bargained master collective agreement that could be negotiated by the union.
According to Christopher Sinal, a lawyer at Siskinds LLP, the report proposes significant modifications to how franchises would collectively bargain in the event they are unionized. Unions have traditionally had a difficult time gaining traction in the franchise sector because the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) treats franchises as independent employers and each must be separately organized. When a franchise is successfully unionized, it must then independently negotiate a collective agreement between the franchisee (as the employer) and the unionized employees.
The report notes less than seven per cent of Ontario private-sector businesses with fewer than 20 employees are unionized because “organizing and bargaining individual contracts in thousands of small locations is inefficient, expensive and impractical.”
If the proposed changes are passed into law, Sinal expects trade unions will quickly look to unionize specific franchises to grab a foothold in the sector. He says franchisors should make sure their franchisees know their rights and obligations under Ontario’s Labour Relations Act, 1995 (LRA) in the event they become aware of a unionized drive in their workplace.