Becoming a union member will have tangible benefits for you throughout your career, and into retirement.

Rates of pay

As much as anybody enjoys their job, getting paid is the major reason that millions of us turn up for work each morning. 

Ensuring that you’re getting fairly paid should definitely be on your personal agenda, and joining a union helps to make that happen. On average, union wage rates are 22 percent higher than non-union rates.

“We negotiate collective agreements with employers that carry penalty clauses if they don’t pay workers the proper rate,” says Patrick J. Dillon, Business Manager and Secretary Treasurer of the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario. “It means that workers get paid on time, too.”

"Ensuring that you’re getting fairly paid should definitely be on your personal agenda, and joining a union helps to make that happen."

Job security

Joining a union also gives workers an increased amount of job security on many different levels, explains Bob Blakely, Chief Operating Officer of Canada’s Building Trades Unions. “Construction industry employees work a job until it reaches completion, at which point unionized workers go back to the hiring hall and into the workforce pool, and get dispatched to another employer,” he says. “So your job security comes from being on the out of work list, and when the next job comes up, you go straight to it.”

The reality for a non-unionized worker is the complete opposite. When a job has reached completion, that worker is out of work and it is their sole responsibility to try and find the next job.

Training and development

The emphasis that unions place on training and development helps to ensure that every worker remains an asset. There are over 200 training centres within Canada’s organized construction industry, all of which deliver specialist education and support to unionized workers. 

“Unions are unmatched when it comes to delivering skills training,” says Dillon. “That positively impacts your future in terms of how valuable you are to various employers within the industry.

Pension and benefits

Blakely explains that a retirement pension plan has been bargained into the collective employment agreement by unions. “If a member works for a unionized employer, the employer will pay the money into the pension plan,” says Blakely. “The office for your pension and health and welfare is at the union hall, so we’re a one-stop-shop for that sort of stuff.”

Pension and health benefits are not usually a top priority for young people who are completing an apprenticeship and looking forward to a career in the trades. Although, the reality is that anybody can fall sick or get injured and need emergency treatment at anytime, and without warning. “It’s the role of the unions to negotiate with employers to ensure that workers and their families have the health benefits that they need,” says Dillon.

This means that unionized workers are covered for medical and dental treatment, vision care, and prescriptions. Rather than being faced with hefty treatment bills, union members receive top quality care with reduced costs because of the large number of people who participate in the purchase of benefits.

All in all, there are plenty unions can do to improve your quality of work as well as quality of life — it’s just up to you to find the one that’s best for you.