Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Unions must vote again

By CAROL CHRISTIAN, Fort McMurray Today
Come Labour Day, there could be no labour on oilsands and other worksites, as ongoing negotiations with area trades have hit two new snags -- a do-over vote and a new strike mandate from two other unions.
While the boilermakers vote (Local 146) complied with Alberta labour laws, it missed the mark with its own international constitution. One example is the use of Alberta Labour Relations Board approved ballots instead of the union’s specific strike ballots. That means a re-vote has to be held with mail-in ballots to be counted Aug. 18.
While it doesn’t change the outcome, the new vote has to be held because “It’s constitutionally necessary. Their international won’t let them come along with the other four to strike,” said Barry Salmon, media liaison for the unions. This action will further delay negotiation or strike actions because the unsettled trade unions have to serve strike notice as a united group.
The unions involved also represent electrical workers, millwrights, refrigeration mechanics plus plumbers and pipefitters.
The original vote was held July 4. Those ballots had the boilermakers voting 98.6 per cent in favour of a strike. The low end was 85 per cent in favour from the refrigeration mechanics.
Now adding to the mix is two other unsettled trades, carpenters and labourers. They decided to to take a strike vote Aug. 15. Their contracts expired at the end of April.
While this delay further frustrates the process, Salmon noted “There may be some tactical advantage to wait until those two trades can come with us.” He added that instead of being five strong, they’ll be seven strong with a strike mandate.
Meanwhile, delay tactics is a term being used by unions to describe the negotiation process surrounding contracts for the five unsettled trade unions.
Settlements have been reached with 14 of the 25 trades. Under the Alberta labour code, if 19 have reached agreement, the remaining unsettled trades are forced in line with their right to strike removed.

1 comment:

Eric Klyne said...


Mr. Dennis Bykowski August 7, 2007
Director of Settlement
Alberta Labour Relations Board
501-10808-99 Ave
Edmonton, AB T5K 0G5

Dear Sir:

With respect to the recent decision of J. Leslie Wallace, Vice-Chair on July 27, 2007, Board File No. SL-01055, File No. SL-01056, File No. SL-01057, File No. SL-01058, File No. SL-01059, and File No. SL-01060 and an unexpected intrusion by the Boilermakers International, I am filing a complaint against the Boilermakers International for violating Section 186(2)(a),(b)

The recent decision of the Labour Board clearly shows that no one Union can delay the counting of Strike Vote ballots that would make the other Unions wait to serve Notice. An excerpt of that decision:

[4] At the close of the hearing day on July 18, the Board decided that it should direct that the strike vote ballots of all the Unions in the group should be opened and counted, subject to some directions from the Board. We did so over the objections of the REOs, which maintained the need to resolve outstanding objections over ballots before a count could be taken. We denied the request of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 424 (“IBEW”) for a permissive ruling that did not oblige it to count its ballots before a contemporaneous ratification vote was completed on July 27th....
The remaining issue is whether the Board should direct that the IBEW ballots be counted at the same time.

We understand that counting a previously-taken strike vote in the middle of that Union’s contract ratification process may possibly have an impact on the ratification voting.

However, the Board has already said, and this panel agrees, that under the Labour Relations Code this is one strike vote. All the Unions in the group have a stake in the IBEW ballots and when they are counted. If they are not counted, the other Unions’ ability to pursue their strike mandate will be impaired. We refer to the Sims Panel decision of 1991 [Certain Building Trade Unions in Consolidation Order Group 1 v. Certain Registered Employers’ Organizations in Consolidation Order Group 1 [1991] Alta. L.R.B.R. 454] where that Panel [at p. 461] identified the Legislature’s intention to be that “they all go together when they go”. Unless and until a new contract is ratified, the fortunes of the IBEW bargaining unit are tied to the others in the Group. It does not make labour relations sense for one Union, labouring under a delayed ratification process (though not one entirely of its own making), to be allowed to delay the collective bargaining process for four others on the basis of somewhat hypothetical fears that it may influence their own ratification.

For these reasons, we reject the request to allow IBEW to defer the count of their part of the single strike vote that the legislation mandates.

This decision by the Labour Board was made and supported Section 186(2)(a),(b) of the Labour Code. It doesn’t make any more sense to delay the collective bargaining process for the four other Unions on the basis of the Boilermakers internal Constitutional difficulties.

For the Boilermakers International Union to interfere with Boilermakers Local 146’s legal right to join the four other Unions in serving Notice of Strike according to Section 78(1)(a) of the Code is simply illegal. The Constitution of any Union does not supercede that of the Alberta Labour Relations Code.

I therefore request that the Board, under Section 17(1), direct the Boilermakers International to make a written declaration that, although the Boliermakers’ Constitution was not adhered to for the Strike Vote and that it must be rectified to correct such internal Union irregularities, that it no way impedes the Boilermakers Local Union 146 from joining the four other Unions in serving Notice of Strike as per Section 78(1)(a) of the Code.

I also request that all Unions involved give written notice to their members that this was a mistake to have told their members that this internal irregularity with the Boilermakers Union had any affect on our ability to serve Notice of Strike. That it was indeed against the Alberta Labour Relations Code to have followed such a directive.

I do hope that the Board can see the obvious violation with this position that the Unions have taken. To start putting an American International’s Constitution above the laws of Canada, in this case, the Alberta Labour Relations Code, is a bad precedence to start taking.


Eric Klyne
IBEW Local Union 424 member

cc. International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers, Local Lodge No. 146 and their International

United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada, Local Union No. 488

Local Union 424, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

Millwrights Machinery Erectors and Maintenance Union, Local 1460 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters