LRB reverses decision that limited unions’ strike options

An important decision delivered April 28 by the Labour Relations Board restores the rights of community social services workers to engage in a full range of job actions to achieve new collective agreements.

It reverses an earlier directive from LRB associate vice-chair Brian Foley that required employees to perform all the duties of their employment where job action had not reduced staffing to bare bones essential services levels.

And that decision would have constituted a serious attack on the rights of trade union members to carry out staged job actions in their efforts to reach collective agreements.

“If the original decision had been left standing,” says acting secretary-business manager Zorica Bosancic.

“Our members could not carry out study sessions, work-to-rule campaigns, work slow-downs or other creative job actions designed to put pressure on employers while minimizing their impact on clients.”

“Unions would not have been able to effectively mount escalating job actions,” adds Bosancic. “We would have been left with two choices only — an all-out strike or no action at all.”

The Foley decision restricting union job actions was made in the course of mediating essential services levels between the Community Social Services Employers’ Association and CUPE.

Because of the serious implications of the decision CUPE was joined by HEU, BCNU, BCGEU and HSA in an application to have the ruling overturned.

HEU is hopeful that the decision indicates a change in attitude at the labour board which has issued a number of decisions that limit the ability of health care unions to exercise a full range of job actions in the course of collective bargaining.

The union is still waiting a decision from the LRB on a similar matter that arose at Quesnel’s G.R. Baker hospital when HEU staff were sent home during a BCNU over-time ban and work-to-rule campaign.