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British Columbia Employer Advisor Keeping Employers Posted on Developments in Labour and Employment Law

Suggesting Decertification Just Might Work

Posted in Labour Relations, Unions
Donovan Plomp

What unionized employer hasn’t wished they could ask their employees to decertify?

Most employers know that initiating and advocating in favour of a decertification application is considered improper interference.  But what if your company is facing financial ruin and you have nothing to lose?  In this case, the employer was facing severe financial challenges and decided to roll the dice.

The Employer wrote a letter to Union employees asking for their “consideration and thoughts” on decertifying in order to “eliminate certain costs associated with the Union”.  The Employer made promises regarding wages and RRSP’s and held a meeting on work time for employees to consider and vote on potential decertification.

The employees did apply to decertify and the Union objected.

The B.C. Labour Relations Board found that the employer was a driving force of decertification.  That, coupled with the assurances made by the Employer regarding wages and benefits, constituted improper interference.  But what was the remedy?

The Board noted legitimate concerns about the viability of the employer’s business under the collective agreement, and that some employees shared those concerns before the employer suggested decertification.  The Board decided that a future vote could reflect the true wishes of the employees and ordered:

  • the Union would have an opportunity to organize two meetings of the Employer’s employees for up to 1.5 hours each, with no loss of pay for employees,
  • reasonable costs of the first meeting would be paid by the Employer and the meeting would occur during work hours,
  • for 15 days after the completion of the meetings a designated representative of the Union would have access to the lunchroom or other place where employees regularly gather to speak with employees as a group, and
  • another vote would be scheduled within 15 days after that time period.

In the end, the employees did vote to decertify and the employer’s calculated risk paid off.

[Certain Employees of Wescor Contracting Ltd., BCLRB No. B2/2012]