Unions Appeal Court Losses on Fines to Supreme Court of Canada
In 2008 both the Telecommunications Workers Union (TWU) in Alberta and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC-UTE) in Ontario lost lower court appeal decisions. Both of those courts ruled that they would not enforce union fines in a court of law against union Members who had crossed picket lines to do their own jobs during a strike. Both unions have now applied for Leave to Appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. The TWU has asked that their application be joined with the PSAC-UTE case. LabourWatch is not aware of a single case where unions have won a substantive court ruling in favour of court collection of fines against workers who exercise their right to work during a strike if the employer opens its workplace up. This right is also important in that it is one of the few things a worker can do to create risk for union leader’s conduct and thus the chance of accountability to the rank and file.
See below for details on each decision.
Ontario Court of Appeal upholds lower court fines ruling
Birch and Luberti and Union of Taxation Employees Local 70030 - Ontario Court of Appeal
In a 2 to 1 decision, the majority of the Court of Appeal ruled that a union's (PSAC-UTE) constitution authorizing fines for picket line crossing "is unconscionable" and therefore unenforceable. While the court recognized that union solidarity is a fundamental principle of the union movement and the collective bargaining process, the court found that the means adopted to achieve such solidarity were "very unfair". The union is seeking Leave to Appeal from the Supreme Court of Canada.
Alberta Court of Queen's Bench Upholds Lower Court Fines Ruling
Macmillian, Pinchak and Gejdos - Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta
In October 2008, Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench upheld a Provincial Court ruling on fines in favour of the workers sued by their own union. The Alberta Provincial Court decision of February 2008 the Telecommunication Workers Union (TWU) Local 202 had appealed its loss. The Queen's Bench ruling essentially aligns Alberta with Manitoba, Newfoundland & Labrador and Ontario that Unions cannot enforce disciplinary penalties, particularly fines in a court of law. The union is seeking Leave to Appeal from the Supreme Court of Canada.
Note: In applying for Leave, the union in the Alberta case has asked the Supreme Court of Canada to have its case heard with the Ontario case (Birch & Luberti) in the event that that union is granted Leave.
British Columbia Election Act Ruling About Use of Union Dues
Judge dodges issue of worker rights in election spending decision
British Columbia Teachers' Federation v. British Columbia (Attorney General), 2009 BCSC 436. The Applicant Unions argued that collective bargaining should be viewed broadly for constitutional purposes to include the use of union dues for purposes outside of the negotiation and administration of collective agreements. If this argument had been accepted, it would have blocked union member’s rights to challenge the use of their dues for political or social causes which they did not endorse or approve of. Nor could a legislature enact measures to protect union members from contributing monies to, and being associated with, political and social causes against their will.
The Court rejected the claim that Unions had a special constitutional right to engage in election advertising, and it accepted that the constitutional rights of dissenting union members are harmed by such advertising.
The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of British Columbia has created a website called My Dues. My Views. that is dedicated to the campaign against the use of forced union dues for non-bargaining purposes such as political activity.
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