Unions forced to re-serve strike notice after “bizarre” LRB ruling

News release

B.C.’s largest health care union says a decision issued by the Labour Relations Board this afternoon that rules that strike notice was not properly served yesterday undermines the collective bargaining rights of union members.

On Thursday, the Hospital Employees’ Union served 72-hour strike notice to put pressure on employers and government to negotiate a fair contract settlement for 46,000 health care workers in hospitals and long-term care facilities across B.C.

HEU and its union bargaining partners also announced that measured and limited job action would take place starting at 11 a.m. Sunday.

But this afternoon, the Labour Relations Board ruled that health unions had not properly issued strike notice. And while the HEU is deeply troubled by what appears to be a very political decision — and will appeal the ruling — the union says it will call off its planned job action for Sunday.

HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt calls the ruling bizarre and says HEABC’s efforts to block Sunday’s limited job actions speaks volumes about the priorities of health employers and their government masters.

“Instead of working towards a negotiated collective agreement, they’ve frittered away the last hours of our existing contract grasping for any legal technicality they could find to prevent us from taking even a measured and very limited job action on Sunday,” says Allnutt.

Overturning 15 years of prior practice of serving notice, the ruling, says Allnutt, “has huge implications for how workers exercise their legal right to take job action in the future.

“The LRB has now found that more than 400 health care employers who are part of the Health Employers Association of B.C. must be individually served with strike notice. They’ve also ruled that faxing strike notices to employers does not legally constitute notice. It’s a bewildering ruling that throws up immense and unprecedented logistical hurdles for province-wide unions like HEU to collectively bargain on behalf of their members.”

HEU will be re-serve major health care employers with notice Friday afternoon to come into effect Monday afternoon. All remaining health care facilities will be served as soon as possible starting on Monday morning. The unions anticipate that limited job actions will take place Monday where legal strike notice has been served. Details will be announced Saturday.