Industrial credit unions, including TD, CIBC, and HSBC, account for over 80 per cent of all credit unions in Canada, according to an industry survey.
But that’s only a small portion of the total.
The industry-wide survey of 1,300 credit unions found that nearly half of all Canadian credit unions are non-union, meaning that they aren’t part of a union and don’t have dues or membership requirements.
That’s a big change from a few decades ago, when the majority of credit unions were unionized, says Scott Rochon, director of credit union services at the Association of Canadian Credit Unions.
The non-unions are also more likely to be small, often with fewer than 100 members.
The number of unions has dropped in recent years as a result of the recession, but that trend has reversed since the early 2000s.
Credit unions were hit hard by the 2008 financial crisis, when they experienced record losses, and the recession is expected to have a significant impact on the sector.
“The impact of the downturn has been a significant shift in the industry,” says Rochont.
“There are still large groups of credit Union workers who have a strong interest in the unions, and they’re willing to support those organizations.”
The number and types of union membership varies greatly across Canada, says Rachone, but the major trends are: unions are more likely than non-parties to be non-profit, meaning they receive no government funding or support from governments; the union represents its members in bargaining, as opposed to their employees; and the union is responsible for ensuring that workers receive the wages they deserve.
But there are other differences between the two sectors.
The credit union industry is more heavily concentrated in cities and towns, and union members are more concentrated in rural areas, which means unions have fewer opportunities to organize outside of their region, says Jason Tanguay, director general of the Credit Union Federation of Ontario.
Non-union unions, on the other hand, are more scattered and often located in small communities.
This is a problem for unions because they don’t typically have a presence in a big city like Toronto or Vancouver, and often have to rely on the local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that represent them.
“Non-union workers have been the ones most likely to experience a lack of union representation in the credit union sector,” Rochons said.
The impact of this shift is also evident in the size of the non-member workforce.
The total number of members is lower for non-members, with about 13 per cent fewer union members compared to about 23 per cent for members.
Non union members account for about half of the average size of a non-residential building, and that number has increased steadily over the last decade, Rochonesays.
That means the non member workforce is bigger than the average member’s.
Non member workers are also less likely to hold the top job at their credit union and less likely than members to hold top leadership positions at the business.
“It’s very hard for non members to rise through the ranks, especially if they’re struggling to pay their bills and have little control over how the credit unions operate,” says Tanguaysays.
Non members are also much more likely not to be members themselves, meaning the union does not represent them directly.
This can have an impact on their ability to negotiate with management, says Tournai, who added that some non-residents have expressed concern about the impact on working conditions.
In the short term, unions are struggling with the effects of the global recession.
The downturn in the global economy has had a significant effect on the industry’s finances, said Rochoons, with many non-affiliated unions seeing revenue drops in the first quarter of 2018 and a decrease in their revenues from the end of the year.
The biggest driver of the credit sector’s difficulties is a sharp drop in business and consumer confidence.
In 2017, the overall economic outlook was very good.
However, the economy has been in recession for two years now, and it’s difficult to assess the impact that the global financial crisis has had on the Canadian economy.
“If you’re a member of the trade union movement and you have any concerns, you should contact the credit associations that represent you, and if you’re not satisfied with the way that they’re doing their jobs, contact the government,” Rachones said.
Rochone says that non-employee unions can offer a valuable alternative to unionized employees, particularly if they can provide a workplace that allows for more flexible work hours and greater autonomy.
“We have a lot of work to do to get the economy moving again, and we’re going to need more non-workers in the workforce,” Ruchones said, adding that credit unions will continue to see growth in the coming years.
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