Union Constitutions and COVID-19

Union constitutions and bylaws are the central documents in the governance of internal union affairs and the relationship between unions and their members.

Unions faced with the unprecedented circumstances resulting from COVID-19, the declaration of a province-wide state of emergency under The Emergency Measures Act by the Manitoba government, and related orders issued by the chief provincial public health officer under The Public Health Act, including the limitation on gatherings to 10 or fewer people, may be grappling with how to comply with mandatory requirements in their constitution and bylaws. For example, any of the following constitutional requirements may be directly impacted:

  • Membership meetings;
  • Executive, council, and committee meetings;
  • Elections;
  • Specific time limits, and
  • Conducting important business, such as approving budgets

Most union constitutions do not contain provisions authorizing alternative means for satisfying the above kinds of requirements in circumstances in which they cannot be carried out safely, since the constitutional draftspersons never anticipated that a scenario like the one presented by COVID-19 might arise.

Our Labour Department has already been assisting unions with navigating their legal obligations under their constitution and bylaws in these challenging times and can do so for your union if you find yourself in difficulty in this regard. We can also provide advice and recommendations regarding possible amendments to these governance documents in order to better position unions to address similar situations in the future.