Labour Board Finds that Federal Government Interfered with Union Representation During Bargaining

In a recent decision, the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board allowed a complaint filed by the Public Service Alliance of Canada, alleging that the government had interfered with the union’s administration and its representation of members during collective bargaining. The complaint was filed after Treasury Board refused to permit a union negotiator to conduct walkthroughs of various worksites, and hold on-site meetings with members to discuss bargaining issues.

PSAC had filed a similar complaint in the last round of collective bargaining, which was also allowed by the Board. The Board had found the employer’s refusal to grant the union access to the worksite to violate the Public Service Labour Relations Act, and the Board ordered the employer to cease denying access in the absence of a compelling and justifiable business purpose.

In the more recent complaint, PSAC complained again that the employer was denying access to the worksite without any business justification; instead, the employer was simply relying on its property rights, and the limited rights of the union to enter the employer’s premises in the Collective Agreement. The union argued that the employer’s position showed a blatant disregard for the final and binding decision in the previous case.

In its decision, dated September 14, 2016, the Board again found in favour of the union. The Board held that the union had a legitimate interest in the negotiator viewing the worksite, and that the employer had not presented any compelling or justifiable reasons to deny access. The Board therefore allowed the complaint, and ordered the employer to cease denying access in the absence of compelling and justifiable business reasons that such access might undermine its legitimate workplace interests.

This is a significant victory for unions in the federal public service, and provides important affirmation of the union’s interest in gaining a better understanding of working conditions on the ground and meeting with members during collective bargaining.

The union was represented in the complaint by Amanda Montague-Reinholdt of RavenLaw.