What is a union?

A union is an organized group of workers who come together to make decisions about the conditions of their work. The main goal of a union is to ensure workers have a collective say over their working conditions.

In British Columbia, workers forming a union are organized after identifying themselves as having a common employer, work, or work-related economic interest. This may mean they are employed by the same employer, in the same place, doing the same work, or having the same economic interests when it comes to the work they do.

Unions are structures for economic democracy in the workplace and they come in many different configurations and sizes. [https://bcorganizing.cupe.ca/faq/]

What is a local?

Workers who have successfully organized their workplace and join CUPE are brought together under a single democratic structure called a “local”. Local unions in CUPE have democratic control over their activities. Members of the local union decide, at regular membership 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.

With 700,000 members and growing, CUPE is made up of thousands of locals throughout Canada.

As a strong and democratic union, CUPE is committed to improving the quality of life for workers in Canada. For the last 50 years, employees have been working together to form local unions and have collectively built CUPE into what it is today.  [https://bcorganizing.cupe.ca/faq/]

I’ve been told that unions can’t improve my working conditions – is that true?

A union will certainly improve your working conditions by bargaining for things such as: predictable schedules, protection from being fired without reason, fair and transparent workplace policies that apply to everyone, and enhanced wages and benefits. In addition, some of the minimum benefits you now receive from your employer are a result of people like you working together through unions over the last 100 years: benefits such as the weekend, right to pensions, vacations, minimum wage laws, human rights legislation, and health and safety regulations.  [https://bcorganizing.cupe.ca/faq/]

Remote Work

Many members have asked the union office to answer questions about Remote Work and Return to Campus. Below is a selection of common questions and general responses to help our members feel more confident about requesting Remote Work arrangements.

Q: Has there been discussion with the Employer about Remote Work? Has the Union agreed to Remote Work?

A: In Contract Bargaining, CUPE 2950 proposed and signed a Letter of Agreement in March 2020 with the Employer committing to create a framework for Telecommuting (now called Remote Work). The COVID-19 health crisis showed that remote work was possible and effective. The framework already in place for some employees was adapted and broadened.

The current framework is found at https://hr.ubc.ca/working-ubc/hybrid-work-ubc/hybrid-work-guidelines

Q: How do I request a Remote Work arrangement with my supervisor?

A: If you want to work remotely, then you should review the objectives, principles and guidelines of the remote work program:



Review the information for employees—and for leaders, if applicable to you—to familiarize yourself with the remote work program.

If you are interested in participating in the program, start by having an informed conversation with your supervisor.

Once you have discussed options with your supervisor and come to an understanding, complete a Remote Work Request Form through Workday: https://hr.ubc.ca/working-ubc/hybrid-work-ubc/hybrid-work-staff

If your request is denied, ask your Department for the specific reasons the request was denied.

If the reasons don’t align with your understanding, ask your Department to explain.

If you have done all of the above, then please contact the union office for further information.

Q: Is Remote Work the same as Flex-Time / Alternate form of work week?

A: Remote Work is work. Alternate forms of work week alter scheduling so that the number of hours worked in a period remain the same, but the days worked may provide calendar days off.

Q: Can I be asked to come into the office on a remote work day?

A: Remote work arrangements are approved on a case-by-case basis, and do not replace or eliminate the requirement for regular, in-person attendance. Employees approved for remote work understand they may be required to attend the workplace at any given time at their own expense.

Q: Can I be asked to come into the office on my day off?

A: The employer can request that you attend work on your scheduled day off subject to notification under Article 28.05 (C) in the main Collective Agreement and 28.01 (C) in the Chan Centre component. If you are asked to attend work on your scheduled day off, it is no longer a day off, it is a work day.

Q: When can I take my vacation?

A: Vacation scheduling is detailed in the Collective Agreement in Article 27.

Employee requests to take earned vacation are approved by Department Head or designate (e.g., supervisor), and this approval must be given according to a rationale that is reasonable, operationally justified, not arbitrary, and not discriminatory.

Q: What if the guidelines don’t consider my particular needs or need for Accommodation?

A: General guidelines may not work for everyone’s situation. Employees with a need for Accommodation must bring that need to the attention of their Department (manager/supervisor). Once a need has been identified, the onus is on the Employer to follow an Accommodation process. Accommodations reached must be reasonable, but may not be perfect. If your need for Accommodation is not being recognized at all, please do contact the union office for further information.