That sticker can stay, LRB rules

Board finds that contracting out is 'a legitimate subject for political expression’

On October 23, 2003, three HEU members at Holyrood Manor — a private for-profit seniors’ care facility in Maple Ridge owned by Retirement Residences Real Estate Investment Trust — came to work wearing stickers showing two big, sad eyes and two teardrops with the slogan “Contracting out. It’s a crying shame!”

They were opposing RRREIT’s intention to contract out Holyrood’s 23 housekeeping, laundry and dietary workers earlier in October. The same thing was happening at Arbutus Care Centre, Capilano Care Centre and Lakeview Care Centre, several other facilities owned by Canada’s largest profit-driven provider of seniors’ residential care.

That sparked a demand from the employer to remove the stickers and ultimately resulted in an individual grievance that being denied the right to wear protest stickers was in violation of the current Health Services and Support Facilities Subsector collective agreement.

In January 2004, Labour Relations Board arbitrator John P. Sanderson agreed with the union.

In his ruling, Sanderson cited several related cases and found that “the grievor’s actions in this case to be a reasonable expression of her views regarding the effect of contracting out in the context of what was happening at this particular facility.”

He concluded that he was unable to find “any proper basis for the employer to issue a direction to remove the sticker and threaten discipline if the employee did not do so.”

Sanderson also upheld Article 4.02 of the HEU’s master agreement, recognizing that it “expressly prohibits interference with an employee’s activity or membership in the union.”

Armed with this provision in their collective agreement, HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt encourages members to exercise their right to political expression in their workplaces all around B.C.

“This ruling confirms yet again that our members have the right to express opposition, or concern with government or employer actions that impact their ability to properly care for patients, residents and clients without fear of reprisals from the boss,” Allnutt says.

“We urge members everywhere to utilize political expression in any local campaign as they continue our fight for quality health services and strong public health care.”