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

Category Archives: Unions

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Federal government restores former certification and decertification processes for unionization in federal workplaces

Posted in Labour Relations, Legislative Changes, Unions

On June 22, 2017, Bill C-4, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Income Tax Act, came into effect. This legislation changes certification and decertification rules for federally regulated workplaces. For more information, please visit the blog post “Federal Government Restores Former Certification and Decertification Processes for Unionization in Federal Workplaces” prepared by our colleagues in Toronto.… Continue Reading

McCarthy Tétrault launches Alberta Employer Advisor blog

Posted in Labour Relations, Occupational Health and Safety, Unions

McCarthy Tétrault launched its 13th blog today, Alberta Employer Advisor, to help clients manage the challenges they face in today’s workplace. The blog provides employers and HR professionals with analysis of the latest legal issues that affect employment-related practices, labour and human resources policies. In addition to providing clients with insights on the implications of new case law, as well as updates on the latest legislative and regulatory developments, the blog will be regularly updated with practical tips, specifically relevant in the Alberta marketplace. We encourage you to visit the blog and subscribe for regular updates.… Continue Reading

Supreme Court of Canada Gives Quick Win To BCTF On Parental Benefits

Posted in Benefits, Compensation, Pensions, Human Rights, Labour Relations, Litigation, Unions

The Supreme Court of Canada recently made a rare oral ruling from the bench, giving the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (“BCTF”) a quick win in their appeal of a decision by the B.C. Court of Appeal regarding discrimination and unequal treatment under the Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The case started in 2012 with a grievance filed by the BCTF against the British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association and the Board of School Trustees of School District No. 36 (collectively, the “Employer”). The grievance alleged that the collective agreement discriminated against birth mothers in that … Continue Reading

New “Super Union” On The Block

Telecommunications Workers Union and United Steelworkers to Merge in 2015

Posted in Labour Relations, Unions

Since Unifor was created from the merger of Canadian Auto Workers and Communication, Energy and Paperworkers Union last year, another merger of unions in Canada has seemed likely. The expectation became the reality on November 7 when the Telecommunications Workers Union voted to merge with the United Steelworkers. The merger will become effective January 1, 2015, but the two unions have announced they will begin joint activities immediately.

What can you expect from the new union? As we saw with Unifor, the new union will undoubtedly engage in renewed organizing efforts and other campaigns. The merger agreement promises an initial … Continue Reading

OH&S Month Part 2: Unsafe Work Refusals, Now Narrower for Federal Workers

Posted in Investigations, Labour Relations, Legislative Changes, Occupational Health and Safety, Unions, Workers Compensation

In every jurisdiction in Canada, employees and employers share the responsibility for ensuring a safe and healthy work environment. In British Columbia, employers are required by the Workers Compensation Act [WCA], to ensure the health and safety of their employees and others working at their work place, which includes investigating safety risks and advising employees of same, and taking steps to eliminate or mitigate identified risks. Likewise, employees have obligations to protect their own and others’ health and safety, including reporting fit to work, wearing protective equipment, following safety procedures, and reporting any safety risks.

One aspect of … Continue Reading

Teachers’ Strike: What does it mean for your workplace?

Posted in Accommodation, Discrimination, Employment Standards, Family Status, Human Rights, Labour Relations, Unions, Wage and Hours

While talks continue, there is no immediate end in sight for the ongoing teachers’ strike. For employees with school-age children, this may mean facing a child care gap starting next week. As an employer, what are your legal obligations and what can you do to make sure work continues while school’s out?

The Legal Framework

First, the Employment Standards Act provides all employees in the province with up to five (5) unpaid days of family responsibility leave each year for the care, health and education of a child in an employee’s care.  Employers do not have the discretion to … Continue Reading

SCC Decision Regarding Wal-Mart In Québec A Cautionary Case For All Canadian Unionized Employers

Posted in Labour Relations, Litigation, Termination, Unions

Our colleagues in Québec have produced a helpful summary of the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision involving a Wal-Mart in Jonquière, Québec, found to have breached its statutory duties during the freeze period following certification of a bargaining unit.

After negotiations for a collective agreement reached a standstill, the Wal-Mart in question decided to close its doors, for what it alleged to be legitimate business reasons. The arbitrator appointed to decide the Union’s grievance of the closure concluded that Wal-Mart’s decision to close the store was not in the course of the company’s ordinary business and therefore breached section … Continue Reading

Saskatchewan: New Hotbed of Labour Law?

Posted in Employment Standards, Labour Relations, Unions, Wage and Hours

With brand new labour and employment legislation, and a major case before the Supreme Court of Canada, Saskatchewan seems to be the current ‘centre of the action’ in Canadian labour law.

Constitutional Right to Strike?

On May 16, 2014, a very significant labour law appeal – Saskatchewan Federation of Labour v. Saskatchewan, from the Saskatchewan Court of Appealwas argued before the Supreme Court of Canada. The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour and other unions argued that two pieces of provincial legislation violated employees’ right to freedom of association protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.Continue Reading

No Anonymity for Grievors

BC Labour Board rules that grievors and witnesses should be identified in labour arbitration decisions

Posted in Labour Relations, Privacy, Unions

The Labour Relations Board has upheld BC Arbitrator Stan Lanyon’s decision in Sunrise Poultry Processors Ltd. v. United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 1518 (discussed previously here) that the names of grievors and witnesses should, as a general rule, be published in labour arbitration awards.

The union argued that British Columbia’s Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) prohibits the disclosure of the names of grievors and witnesses in labour arbitration awards without their consent. In the union’s view, the increasingly easy public access to arbitration awards because of sophisticated internet search engines and free legal websites like Canlii mean … Continue Reading

Suncor Loses on Random Alcohol and Drug Testing

Issues about required evidence

Posted in Human Rights, Labour Relations, Occupational Health and Safety, Privacy, Unions

The long-awaited arbitration decision is in, and the result is a loss for random alcohol and drug testing.  (See the Decision here and the Dissent here.)

Suncor had tried to implement a random drug and alcohol testing policy with respect to all of its  safety-sensitive employees in the oil sands.  The union resisted and was able to get an injunction from the Alberta courts to prevent implementation of the policy until the arbitration was completed.

A majority of the three member arbitration panel ruled against Suncor.  They found that there was insufficient evidence of a problem with alcohol and … Continue Reading

Teck Allowed to Proceed with Random Testing

New development in drug and alcohol testing

Posted in Employee Obligations, Human Rights, Labour Relations, Occupational Health and Safety, Privacy, Unions

Teck Coal will be allowed to continue to implement its random alcohol and drug testing policy while the union pursues its grievance to overturn the policy.  Arbitrator Colin Taylor had previously denied the union an interim order to stop implementation of the policy (see our previous post here) and the BC Labour Relations Board has dismissed the union’s appeal of that decision.  The decision is Teck Coal Limited, BCLRB No. B28/2014.

This means Teck will be allowed to follow its policy for now and the matter will go to arbitration for a decision as to whether the policy … Continue Reading

Victory for BCTF

$2 Million in damages may not be the worst of it

Posted in Labour Relations, Unions

Everybody knows by now that the B.C. Teachers’ Federation has been awarded $2 million plus costs against the B.C. Government related to the dispute over class sizes.  The B.C. Supreme Court ruled that the government simply duplicated previous legislation that had been declared unconstitutional.  The court had harsh words for the government, essentially finding that the government ignored the court’s previous orders and that it had tried to provoke a strike by the teachers,  supporting the court’s $2 million damage award, and likely a few hundred thousand in costs to be paid.

The cost to the public purse is bad … Continue Reading

Proposed Employment Law Reform in Ontario

Bill 146 Worth Watching

Posted in Employment Standards, Immigration, Investigations, Litigation, Occupational Health and Safety, Unions, Wage and Hours, Workers Compensation

The Ontario government has introduced a bill to make significant changes to employment law in that province.  Every BC employer with employees in Ontario should follow the course of these proposed changes.

As our colleagues in Ontario note, the Bill may not become law under the current government, but the proposals are wide-ranging and follow earlier Law Reform Commission recommendations.  See their analysis here.… Continue Reading

Pick of the Blogs

Items of Interest for BC Employers

Posted in Employee Obligations, Labour Relations, Litigation, Occupational Health and Safety, Privacy, Unions

Other McCarthy Tétrault blogs regularly touch on issues of importance for BC employers.  Here is a selection from the last month.

Managing the risks of holiday parties.  The office party season can be interesting.  Think about how you can manage the risks.

It’s flu season.   Tips for dealing with sickness in the workplace.

Trespassing on private property?  Maybe not.  Think picketing and leafleting.  A business’s property rights – and the ability to control trespassing – may not be as clear as you think, especially if the business invites the public on its property or operates in a publicly accessible area.… Continue Reading

Drug and Alcohol Testing: Safety vs. Privacy

Safety Wins For Now

Posted in Labour Relations, Litigation, Occupational Health and Safety, Privacy, Unions

Random alcohol and drug testing causes irreparable harm to privacy interests, but not allowing it creates a risk of even greater irreparable harm to safety.  That was the decision reached by an Arbitrator who was asked by a union to make an interim order to prevent the employer from implementing its new testing policy.  (The decision is Teck Coal Limited, Unreported Arbitration Award, May 9, 2013 (Taylor)).

This is NOT a finding that random alcohol and drug testing is allowed.  That is still very much in dispute and this decision was on the narrow issue of whether the employer … Continue Reading

Alberta Privacy Legislation Shot Down

Will also affect BC

Posted in Labour Relations, Privacy, Unions

The Alberta Personal Information Protection Act has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada.  The sweeping decision was prompted by union video surveillance of people crossing a picket line.  Because PIPA does not have any exemption to allow for a union to advance its interests in a labour dispute, it was held to be an unreasonable restriction on the union’s freedom of expression guaranteed by the Charter of Rights.

Alberta will have 12 months to make changes to the law before the declaration of invalidity takes effect.  BC is effectively in the same boat since its Personal Continue Reading

Grievor To Be Identified – Again

No General Rule to Anonymize Names

Posted in Labour Relations, Privacy, Unions

Another Arbitrator in BC has decided against a general rule of anonymizing the names of grievors and witnesses in labour arbitration awards.  The decision of Arbitator Stan Lanyon in the Sunrise Poultry case (Unreported, October 28, 2013) is the case we anticipated in our previous post on this issue.

Like Arbitrator John Sanderson in the Husband Food Ventures case, Arbitrator Lanyon was dealing with a request by the United Food & Commercial Workers, Local 1518 to have the names of the grievor and witnesses remain confidential in any Award in the matter.  And like Arbitrator Sanderson, Arbitrator Lanyon decided there … Continue Reading

Strike Vote Not Valid

Exchange of views on all key issues required

Posted in Labour Relations, Unions

The Labour Relations Board has confirmed that strike votes must be meaningful.  In effect, collective bargaining must have progressed at least to the point where it is clear what is in dispute before a strike vote can meet the legal requirements of the Labour Relations Code.

There has been a growing frustration over unions quickly moving to strike votes and strike notice in the middle of collective bargaining.  The Code requires collective bargaining, followed by a strike vote, followed by 72 hour strike notice before a union is in a legal strike position.  Too often, unions have been holding … Continue Reading

CAW and CEP Merger Completed

New union called Unifor

Posted in Labour Relations, Unions

Unifor, a new Canadian union with over 300,000 members, was created on the Labour Day Weekend.  It represents the completion of the long-awaited merger of the Canadian Auto Workers and Communication Energy and Paperworkers unions.

As we have previously reported, the new union has high hopes and and is making promises to do some things differently.  There is a stated commitment to renewed and more vigorous organizing efforts, and there is talk of reaching out to younger workers.  But there is also much of the old class warfare rhetoric and railing against corporations and bankers.  Employers should continue to … Continue Reading

Surveillance by Union Allowed

Necessary for Investigation of Replacement Worker Violations

Posted in Labour Relations, Privacy, Unions

Two different panels of the BC Labour Relations Board have made findings in favour of a union’s covert video surveillance at the IKEA store in Richmond, BC.  The store has operated behind a picket line since May 13.

With over 300 unionized employees on the outside looking in, and only 27 who have decided to cross the picket line, most store operations have continued.  The kids’ ballroom is closed, and the 600 seat cafeteria isn’t serving up Swedish meatballs (or anything else), but otherwise the store is open and sales are being made.  That has made the union suspicious that … Continue Reading

Grievor’s Name to be Published

Privacy law does not prohibit disclosure

Posted in Labour Relations, Privacy, Unions


A BC arbitrator recently held that a grievor is not entitled to have her name withheld from publication in an arbitration decision involving her termination.  In Husband Food Ventures Ltd. (d.b.a. I.G.A. Store No. 11) and UFCW, Local 1518, the Union argued that British Columbia’s Personal Information Protection Act prohibited the publication of the grievor’s name, or alternatively, that the arbitrator should exercise his discretion and not publish the grievor’s name.

Arbitrator John Sanderson wrote that whether grievor’s name should be redacted  from the reasons is a matter within the discretionary authority of the arbitrator to be decided … Continue Reading

Human Rights Tribunal Takes On Forum Hopping

Does not further the purposes of the Code

Posted in Accommodation, Discrimination, Human Rights, Unions

The BC Human Rights Tribunal has breathed new life into the concept of what it means to further the purposes of the Human Rights Code with the result that employers have some hope in stopping forum hopping and serial litigation.  Mahdi v. Hertz Canada Limited could prove to be one of the Tribunal’s most important dismissal decisions yet.

Mr. Mahdi is a long time unionized employee of Hertz.  Over the course of about four years he pursued multiple  grievances about his vacation rights.  He had some success following hearings or by way of settlement.

Before the last of his vacation … Continue Reading

Temporary Foreign Miners Allowed

Federal Court dismisses union challenge

Posted in Human Capital, Immigration, Recruiting, Unions

Our Federal Court has dismissed a court challenge by two unions against HD Mining.  The unions claimed that the company hired more than 200 temporary Chinese workers for its coal mine in Tumbler Ridge in northeastern BC, while deliberately ignoring or passing over many qualified and willing Canadian applicants.

The International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 115, and the Construction and Specialized Workers Union claimed that HD Mining obtained labour market opinions (“LMOs”) to bring about 200 temporary foreign workers from China, after rejecting multiple Canadian applicants with exemplary qualifications.  The company claimed that there was a lack of expertise … Continue Reading

Target Not a Successor to Zellers

Posted in Labour Relations, Unions

The BC Labour Relations Board has refused to declare Target a successor to Zellers for a location in Burnaby.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 1518 was seeking to extend its bargaining rights for the Zellers employees at Brentwood Mall.  That location was one of 220 leasehold interests across the country that Target could acquire from Zellers.

The Board rejected the union application, essentially because the union had not shown a sufficient continuity between the former Zellers business and the projected Target business.  The Board noted:

  • Target is different from Zellers in its brand, its market and its
Continue Reading