Advantages of Certifying

Certification as a trade union has produced significant results for PEA members that would not have been achieved under “collegial” models.

Without certification, your employer can amend your terms of employment unilaterally. The employer doesn't have to consult or bargain with you. Where terms of employment are negotiated without a collective agreement, the employer may violate or unilaterally change the terms. An employer can even ignore or dismiss the dispute resolution provisions of a voluntary agreement.

In these cases, employees can only seek recourse and enforcement through long and expensive court action. If your employer has other bargaining units which are certified, those units have the advantage of additional rights under labour law and a stronger bargaining position with the employer, further disadvantaging non-unionized professionals.

Certification is empowering. Certification with any union gives employees rights they don't otherwise have. These examples are based on the BC Labour Relations Code. Similar provisions are found in other provincial codes and in the Canada Labour Code for federally regulated industries.


"I couldn’t have done it if I hadn’t had the union working with me', she says. When it comes to dealing with personal and professional challenges, Eagles sees the importance of community and kinship: ‘You need to feel there are people on your side."

Former PEA Member, Beth Eagles.


  • Certification obliges the employer to sit down with your representatives to negotiate your working terms. Both parties are required to negotiate in good faith with the intention of concluding a workable agreement.
  • Certification bars the employer from changing your negotiated terms without agreement. All collective agreements are registered with the Ministry of Labour and the Labour Relations Board (LRB). Labour law provides specialized and expedited routes for enforcing agreements.
  • Certification requires employers to consult with employees about workplace problems. Every agreement is required to have a provision requiring consultation between the parties.
  • Certification gives employees a means of impartially resolving disputes. Agreements must include grievance provisions. The right to file a grievance without retribution is guaranteed by law. If a grievance is not resolvable between the employer and the union, the union can take the grievance to binding arbitration.
  • Certification places a duty of fair representation upon the union. Union representation must be fair, unbiased, and non-discriminatory. Reasonable consideration must be given to the claims of all persons covered by the certification. Bargaining unit members who are not dealt with fairly can seek redress through the LRB.
  • Certification gives employees more tools for negotiating with employers. The Ministry of Labour offers free mediation services to help settle collective agreements. Parties can also negotiate terms allowing for the arbitration of collective agreements if a settlement can't be reached through negotiation. Finally, certification makes it possible for employees to take job action to pressure the employer to settle an agreement, including partial or full withdrawal of services and even picketing. A union with significant resources has more room for creativity when considering how to put pressure on an employer. The employer can also lock out employees to pressure them to settle an agreement.
  • Certification also gives any unit the same legal standing as other unionized employees. This legal standing is particularly important in disputes over which units particular positions belong in. It also gives employees representation when an action by one union will affect persons not in that unit.

These are not notional advantages — they are real and substantial. But the onus to ensure that certification results in improved employment conditions remains chiefly on the members. Like any other union, the PEA is only as strong as its members — no union can be effective without members who are personally committed to common objectives. Many of these benefits are useless if members aren't involved in the work of the union and the union does not have the members' support.

In this section

The PEA was formed in 1974, by a group of professionals working in the public sector. The story goes that the founders of the union mortgaged their houses to fund negotiations of the union’s first collective agreement. 

Now, the PEA is BC’s union for professionals. We represent a wide range of professionals including lawyers, foresters, engineers, agrologists, teachers, veterinarians, fundraisers, physiotherapists, pharmacists, psychologists program managers, librarians and more.

Our union is led by the PEA Executive. They represent members from across the chapters of the PEA and set the overall vision and direction for our union.

Resources for our members

Navigating a union can sometime be a challenging process. Under this section of the website you will find resources to help you navigate the PEA. In the members section you'll find expense claim reimbursements, information on the PEA's scholarship and bursary program and our grants and donations program.

Collective bargaining and job action resources explain the process of collective bargaining and what to do in the unlikely event of job action. 

Local reps can also find resources to help them complete their job more effectively. This includes ways to welcome new members, how to take notes in investigation disciplinary meetings and more.

The heart of our union

The PEA is made up of nine chapters, or groups of members who either work for the same employer or are in the same field of work. Each chapter has an elected executive tasked with running the affairs of the chapter. Each chapter is entitled to representation at the PEA Executive, the governing body of the union. 

Our members work for a range of employers: the Province of BC, the University of Victoria, St. Margaret's School, the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program, the Oil and Gas Commission, the Law Society of BC, Legal Services Society, the Okangan Regional Library and health authorities across BC.

Professionals need unions now more then ever

Since the 1970’s, when the PEA was formed, our mission has been to ensure our members can work in safe, productive environments and receive fair and reasonable wages and benefits for the valuable work they do. We help individuals and groups of professional workers to understand the challenges they face in their workplaces and some of the solutions available to them. 

We work with potential members to become certified as a union and achieve the wages, benefits and respect they deserve. 

The Professional | Volume 46 Issue 1

The Professional is the PEA's award-winning, quarterly magazine for members.

The January-February 2020 issue includes a Vancouver Sun op/ed piece from PEA Executive Director Scott McCannell on the Legal Services Society strike.

Read the January-February 2020 issue



The PEA was formed in 1974 to represent licensed professionals in the BC Public Service. Since then the organization has grown to include a wide range of professionals from across BC. Find our more about our governance, staff and strategic direction.

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