Frequently Asked Questions


1. What does CUPE do for members?

In CUPE, members have access to the resources that more than half a million members across Canada have built to help each other. We share information and expertise and develop bargaining strategies.

CUPE is about building on our own strengths so that employees with common interests can create just and fair work places. Joining CUPE gives you the credibility you need in bargaining.

Being a CUPE member means that you will have all the materials, information, programs and staff expertise that are needed to meet the employer as an equal partner. Employers respect CUPE’s reputation, size and expertise. Being a CUPE member is about gaining the respect for the work you do each day.

2. What does CUPE have in common with me?

CUPE is Canada’s largest union with over half a million women and men who provide public services. In Alberta, CUPE’s 36,000 members work in health care, municipalities, schools, colleges, universities, libraries, emergency medical services, social services and casinos. And in each of these sectors, CUPE represents a wide spectrum of employees. These include such occupational groups as university and school board teaching assistants, lab technicians, electricians, homecare workers, planners, designers, surveyors, paramedics, drafting technicians, clerical support, laundry workers, radio technicians, groundskeepers, flight attendants, curators, interpreters, payroll clerks, hospital housekeeping and dietary staff, water treatment plant operators, psychologists, zoo keepers, secretaries, employment counselors, nurses, licensed practical nurses, nursing aides and nutritionists.

3. What services are provided?

Each Local is assigned a full-time CUPE servicing representative who works out of one of CUPE’s seven Alberta offices. Servicing representatives provide assistance in collective bargaining, health and safety, Employment Insurance, Workers’ Compensation appeals, grievances, arbitrations and other work related issues. CUPE has Alberta based staff specialists who provide Locals with expertise in labour law, research, education and communications. CUPE also provides Locals with expertise in job evaluation, health and safety, technology, equal opportunities and anti-racism. These resources are provided so that Locals can meet the goals your Members establish. CUPE also provides funding and expertise for special campaigns to provide bargaining support and to fight contracting out and privatization.

4. Who decides what services are needed?

Locals do, at National and Provincial Conventions. Delegates from each CUPE Local debate and set CUPE’s priorities.

5. Are CUPE agreements legally binding?

Yes. A national servicing representative assists your Local to negotiate a legally binding Collective Agreement. This agreement will spell out clearly the conditions of employment. Depending upon what you decide to propose to the employer, your Collective Agreement can include provisions on wages, benefits, vacations and holidays, grievance and arbitration, hours of work, overtime premiums, a ban on contracting out, layoffs and your right to representation. All of these matters can be negotiated with your employer. Employee/employer relationships must be based on respect and fairness. This approach is why CUPE Locals in Alberta have the best contracts and the best settlement record in the province.

6. Who decides what will be negotiated?

Members do. Each Local develops its own bargaining proposals. CUPE provides the research and the bargaining expertise you need to get a fair agreement with your employer. Similarly, your Membership makes the decision on whether to accept or to reject your Local’s collective agreement. CUPE is there to help you negotiate the agreement, not to tell members what to negotiate or to accept.

7. Who makes decisions on job action?

Members do. This is a Local decision. Neither CUPE national officers nor staff make these decisions for you. CUPE is there to help with advice, assistance and financial support as may be required.

8. What are the dues?

Each Local in CUPE sets its own dues, depending on needs and priorities. Your dues cover the costs of daily operations of your Local and other priorities determined by your members on such things as; a local newsletter, union education and training, and/or mounting a public campaign.

Less than one cent on each dollar collected is sent to CUPE National. These funds are used mainly to hire staff who work with you to bargain strong contracts and improve working conditions, including specialists like lawyers and researchers. Another portion funds courses and materials that help you tackle problems in the workplace. And a portion goes directly into special funds to ensure that CUPE members have the resources to defend their jobs and improve wages. All of the rest is kept by the Local for its own priorities and internal operations. Union dues are fully tax deductible.

9. What are CUPE dues spent on?

Dues sent to the national union are used to pay for the services and programs that Members and Locals receive. Union dues retained by the Local are spent according to the Local’s own priorities. As well as the direct services to Locals outlined earlier, CUPE also monitors and speaks out on work place issues and government policies that affect our Members and our communities. In CUPE, every member’s well-being and job is important. CUPE is very active protesting attempts to privatize health care, municipal water supplies and waste water treatment facilities. CUPE is opposed to school boards pursuing public-private partnerships. Our children must not become a captive audience for corporate marketing efforts.

10. Who makes the decisions in CUPE?

Your membership does. At the local level, members determine their own priorities and agendas. At the national level, locals elect delegates to attend CUPE’s biennial national conventions. It is the delegates who decide CUPE’s priorities from among the resolutions that Locals send in prior to each Convention. The Alberta Division of CUPE uses similar procedures.

11. How are locals represented?

Delegates from each local elect CUPE’s officers at national and provincial Division conventions. National conventions are held every two years in October and officers are elected for two year terms.

Locals elect their representatives to CUPE’s national convention according to this formula:

  •     up to 100 Members, 1 delegate
  •     101 – 200, 2 delegates
  •     201 – 500 3 delegates
  •     501 – 1,000, 4 delegates
  •     1,001 – 1,500, 5 delegates, etc.

Locals in Alberta also have the option of joining CUPE’s Alberta Division. CUPE Alberta holds an annual convention in March. Officers are elected for two year terms by delegates in attendance.

Locals elect delegates to CUPE Alberta’s annual conventions according to following formula: 2 delegates for the first 100, and one delegate for each additional hundred or fraction thereof.