Margot Young | CUPE Research


CUPE has been renewing our union through the Fairness Project, a comprehensive campaign to reinforce the value of union membership. It is a project to build membership skills to create an active and powerful union. The Fairness Project provides members greater opportunities to understand, engage and participate in CUPE local, regional and national campaigns. 

The CUPE membership survey gives us some insights on how we are connecting to our membership. We were pleased to learn that a majority of members surveyed participated in some way with their union in the past year. We learned that union involvement increases with job security. We also know that older and higher-income members are more likely to participate in their union. Men and non-racialized members are more likely to report participation in their union. We must explore how we can expand our connection with our members and look to new and inclusive ways of engagement.

There are many ways our members receive communi­cations from the union. Sixty-three per cent of members surveyed reported they get their information from a CUPE newsletter. Notice boards, emails, and face-to-face communication were also predominant ways that members received information. Less than 40 per cent have been to a CUPE website and only 13 per cent received information from a CUPE Facebook or Twitter account.

It is important to gauge the changes in how CUPE members connect with their union as this may change dramatically as the demographics of CUPE change. 


The results for the sector survey showed us that in general, women, racialized, and younger members were most likely to work in more precarious circumstances compared to the overall membership of CUPE. The full analysis of the equality results can be found at

Using the index of precarious work developed by the Poverty and Employment Precarity in Southern Ontario Survey (PEPSO), CUPE’s survey found that there were significant sector diffe­rences. Overall members classified as secure or stable were most likely to be in the communications, municipal, and utility sectors. Members in the airlines and health and social services sectors were more likely to be vulnerable or precarious. The highest levels of precarious work were found in the hospital, long-term care, post-secondary, and library board sectors. The school board sector was more likely to be distributed across the secure, stable, or vulnerable employment but they were not as likely to be precarious.

Examining the results we can see specific differences in working conditions which also help us understand how we can engage our membership on bargaining strategies to improve their working conditions.

Almost two-thirds of the membership told us they had permanent full-time jobs, with the utility and communications sectors having the highest percentage. Post-secondary members had the lowest rate of full-time permanent employment at 23 per cent. These members were also the least likely to have a pension plan or employment benefits. They are also most likely to work for more than one employer.

Library workers reported the highest rate of permanent part-time employment at 46 per cent compared to the average of 14 per cent. Our library members were also least likely to be paid for sick days. The airlines sector reported being most likely to work on call and feeling more likely to experience a reduction of hours in their employment in the next six months. Income variability was reported a lot or somewhat for 22 per cent of our members. Hospital workers experience the most variability of income at 30 per cent. Members in the health and social services sectors were least likely to know their work schedule in advance. Casual, on-call labour was most reported in the long- term care sector. Members who were most concerned about raising an employment rights concern were from the airlines, long-term care and public library boards sectors.

Unionized workers are paid better and are more likely to have benefits that help you balance work with life at home. But there are still issues we need to address as a union, as there are serious indications of levels of precarious work in our membership. Learning about the conditions of our members helps us understand how we can change. We can show solidarity for all our members by looking at how to improve wages and working conditions for our precarious members across sectors. We need to continue to improve working conditions for all workers.

SurveyHow we did the survey 

CUPE conducted its first-ever comprehensive survey of its membership in 2014 to give our union a better understanding of the union’s demographics and diversity, as well as the degree to which its members face precarious work. Nearly 3,000 members representing all regions and sectors were surveyed by telephone.

A well-known and respected survey firm worked with CUPE to develop a reliable methodology for developing a representative sample from our membership. The survey drew from a random sample from more than 80,000 contacts representative of each province, from each size of local, and from each sector. 

Because we had a solid sample to draw from, the survey results are reliable. This rich national level data from the survey has many stories to tell about our membership.

Members were divided into four employment precarity classifications, where precarious work describes states of employment that do not have the security or benefits enjoyed in more traditional employment relationships. Precarious employment has real implications in terms of economic well-being, though it can also affect social, community, and family life.