North Okanagan salad company loses appeal after Labour Board forces its workers to unionize | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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North Okanagan salad company loses appeal after Labour Board forces its workers to unionize

Image Credit: FACEBOOK: Fresh Attitude
October 25, 2020 - 6:00 AM

A North Okanagan food production company has lost an appeal to overturn a B.C. Labour Relations Board ruling which ordered the firm's staff to unionize after the company was forced to reinstate two workers it fired for organizing a campaign to unionize.

Coldstream-based Salade Etcetera! appealed the B.C. Labour Relations Board ruling from March, but rather than attack the decision to reinstate the two workers, the company was more concerned with the Board's order that the remaining production staff unionize.

The lettuce company was ordered into "remedial certification," where the Labour Relations Board orders certification of a trade union without evidence the company's workers would have supported being unionized or not.

The decision notes the original March 10 ruling was the first time the Labour Board had used new amendments to the Labour Code which allowed it to order remedial certification in these circumstances.

In the appeal decision, the company, which is a division of Vegpro International and sells products under the Fresh Attitude brand, says it hired 80 to 90 production line workers and only the two previously fired staff had shown support to unionize, and only one had signed a union membership card.

The company claimed the order is contrary to the principle of employee free choice with respect to unionization and that the Labour Board "foisted" unionization on its workers. It argued that remedial certification was not an appropriate remedy in the circumstances and that the labour Board should have instead ordered it to allow the union to hold meetings with its employees.

"(This) would allow the union to demonstrate to the employees that it could protect them from unfair labour practices and permit them to become familiar with the union before voting," it argued.

In the original decision, the Labour Board ruled that any collective agreement negotiated by the company and the union would then be submitted to the employees for ratification. 

However, the company argued that giving the union the right to be the exclusive bargaining agent first "wrongly presumes” it would have obtained the required support from the workers.

The company also argues the union should have had to demonstrate a level of support from the staff that is greater than approximately two workers out of 90.

"There is no evidence of the interest in union representation for 98 per cent of the affected employees," it argued.

Much of the decision is given over to the language and interpretation of the newly amended parts of the Labour Code which allowed the Labour Board to order remedial certification more easily than before.

The union argued this aspect of the law was amended to allow the Labour Board to remedy and deter "hit hard, hit early anti-union tactics" which took place in this case.

"The union submits the language of the (Labour) Code was changed precisely to eliminate this incentive for employers to violate the rights of unions and employees at the early stage of organizing," reads the decision.

Ultimately, the Labour Board sided with the Union and dismissed Salade Etcetera! appeal.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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