• Unions in Quebec

While the advantages offered by today’s labour shortage seem pleasant to some, the disadvantages placed on the many quickly darken its promises of better pay and benefits. If only there were a legal and non-comprising way to negotiate better salaries with your boss… Surprise 🎉, we present to you, UNIONS! Unions offer employees the collective leverage they need to establish better pay, benefits and working conditions without causing woeful economic drawbacks as is the case with labour shortages.

Fortunately, unions are central to Quebec’s labour market! They are the second province with the most union coverage rate in Canada standing at nearly 40% of all employees being unionised. But what even are unions? Why are they so present in Quebec? And what about student unions, are those the same?

What are unions?

  • Unions are federally and provincially recognized groups that represent the general interest of employees. Through negotiations with a company’s management team known as ‘collective bargaining’, unions draft a legal contract, a ‘collective agreement’, that establishes better working conditions, benefits, and pay of employees. Such examples include the eight hour workday, maternity leave, or the minimum’s wage gradual increase. (Moreover, they immensely help marginalised groups!)

Why are there so many in quebec?

  • Union presence has been observed in Quebec for nearly two centuries, and has historically led the way in Canada with its high union density. This density is enabled by two main factors, Canada’s large public sector, and its labour relations laws which favour union development.  

What’s the difference with student unions?

  • To many’s surprise, there is little difference between student unions and labour unions. Quebec’s student unions are powerful and represent hundreds of thousands of students province-wide. Their duties closely resemble labour unions as they aim to best represent the interests of students by improving working conditions, fighting tuition hikes and bettering student experience. 

History: The prevalent influence of student unions in Quebec is largely traced to one document, the ‘Charte de Grenoble’. This charter, drafted by French students in 1946 establishes university attendees as ‘intellectual workers’. Therefore, students are entitled to rights such as proper working conditions and rights to research. Students are also responsible, as intellectual workers, for propagating the truth and defending freedom. This charter greatly inspired universities in Quebec in the 60’s and paved the way for today’s ‘act respecting the accreditation and financing of student’s associations’ passed in 1983. Whilst other provinces have passed similar acts, Quebec remains Canada’s student union stronghold as students benefit from the most legal protection and organise the largest student strikes.

What’s The Tribunal Administratif du Logement (Housing Administrative Tribunal)?

Created in 1980, The Tribunal Administratif du Logement (TAL), formerly known as Régie du logement, is a provincial body that supervises the residential rental market and applies Quebec’s housing laws and regulations (1). Its responsibilities include;

  1. Making decisions on requests submitted to it
  2. Informing people of their rights and obligations under residential leases 
  3. And promoting good relations between landlords and tenants.
Do the same rights and obligations apply for student residences?

No, residences managed by educational institutions do not benefit from the same rights and obligations as other dwellings in Quebec. For example, “a student who lives in a residence managed by an educational institution cannot sublet the dwelling or assign the lease” (2). The list of differences can be found on the TAL’s website here.

Are the laws the same regardless of my citizenship status (international students, etc.)?

Yes, whether you are a Canadian citizen from any province, or you are legally residing in Canada for work or study purposes, you benefit from the same housing rights and are subject to the same obligations in Quebec

Can a landlord refuse my renting application because I just arrived in Canada?

“While a landlord may ask you for work references or a credit check, they are not allowed to ask any personal questions in regards to how long you have been in Canada, your ethnic background or religion, whether you will have any relatives visiting, and whether you plan on having children. Additionally, a landlord cannot flat out refuse to rent to you because you are new to Canada and therefore lack credit and/or references.” (3)

Upon signing my lease, my landlord asked for a deposit equivalent to one month’s rent, is that normal?

Yes, the landlord(or lessor) is entitled to doing so. However, they may not ask for more than one month’s rent, or charge any other additional amounts like security or key deposits. (4)

  1. https://www.tal.gouv.qc.ca/fr/a-propos
  2. https://www.tal.gouv.qc.ca/en/being-a-lessee/students
  3. https://www.canadim.com/blog/international-students-canada-know-your-housing-rights/
  4. https://www.tal.gouv.qc.ca/en/being-a-lessee/paying-the-rent?