Straight Talk: Do unions protect the lazy? Can no-one be fired?

why didn't you wake me

No union contract will protect workers from fair and logical consequences.

If you’re insubordinate, won’t do your job, are chronically unproductive, won’t take direction and won’t follow policy, your union won’t be able to save you. If you harass your colleagues, show up drunk or abuse your leave you can be sure to face discipline. That discipline could take the form of a letter of reprimand, a suspension or dismissal.

We often hear that unions protect the lazy & incompetent. We hear about the worker who refuses to do more than his job description demands or the co-worker who comes in late, hung over and belligerent all the time. Union membership cannot protect you from yourself. Like anyone else, a union member has to do the job they are paid to do and follow the rules.

Collective Agreements have language around discipline, outlining processes from the first complaint up to and including dismissal. What unions try and do is ensure that discipline is fair and has followed the process outlined in the negotiated contract.

Contracts offer a framework where performance management can take place in a fair and systematic manner. It’s called progressive discipline. This progressive discipline is important – it creates opportunities for members to work with management to set goals. Proper documentation makes sure expectations and consequences are clear. Progressive discipline allows staff & management to work toward solutions while making sure workers take responsibility for their own actions.

The truth is you’re just as likely to have a “dead weight co-worker” in a non-union workplace as a unionized workplace. Conflict is no fun; enforcing policy, handing out discipline and holding someone accountable is the toughest part of a supervisor or HR professional’s job. Ultimately it’s the duty of the manager to follow procedure; performance evaluations should show areas where improvement is expected. Conflict must be recorded, expectations documented and compliance tracked.

As a union it’s our duty to make sure members are treated fairly and are offered the support they need when times get tough. The bottom line is that we want to make sure any discipline you receive is warranted. The questions we ask are “did you do this, were you warned, and did you comply?” If the facts are indisputable, you were warned and you didn’t shape up, well there’s not much we can do.

The responsibility is always yours; do the work, do it well, be respectful & be accountable.

4 thoughts on “Straight Talk: Do unions protect the lazy? Can no-one be fired?

  1. Who wrote this dribble? We have chronically late employees who are not disciplined. If they don’t work out in a district, you will be moved elsewhere. Multiple accidents covered up. Rules applied to some, not others. So sad that you opine on a matter you are clearly have no experience and or knowledge.


    • Not sure where you reside or work, but if bad employees are not disciplined that is the fault of the employer. Union structure (well written collective agreements, at least) clearly define processes for performance management, discipline, record keeping and sanctions up to and including dismissal. If there is not a willingness at the management level to manage performance and uphold the collective agreement then that bears review. As to the author of this dribble… we know whereof we speak. Thank you for your time and your thoughts. Clearly, all unions, collective agreements, workplaces & professions provide their own set of parameters and challenges. Best of luck.


  2. This article is…crap. You’ve obviously not worked in as part of a union. The comments here speak the truth: management is to blame because more often than not, they don’t want conflict. They won’t discipline and after a while, dysfunction becomes the norm as sadly most people try to get paid for doing the least amount of work possible, mostly frustrated for doing more, yet seeing others paid and ultimately rewarded for doing less.

    Liked by 1 person

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