I’ve made a few passing references to the fact that I am no longer the Organization Development Specialist at Regina Public Library.
Without going into specifics, there’s a bit of back story to how that all came about but the main thing to know for the purposes of this post is that when my position was eliminated last fall, our union filed an Unfair Labour Practice claim against RPL management regarding some of the circumstances surrounding how my position was being eliminated.
Soon after, RPL filed an unfair labour practice claim of their own against the local that an advocacy web site the union had launched as part of our prolonged contract negotiations, check-us-out.net (now in hibernation though an archive of the site’s contents will continue to exist on Google and others sites indefinitely) presented false and misleading information.
As a resolution to the two and a half year long contract negotiation finally neared, the union decided to withdraw their unfair labour practice regarding my previous position being eliminated, at least partly as a gesture of good faith. The employer did not act in a like manner and proceeded with their case.
The case was heard in July and I’m happy to report that the labour board decided in favour of the union.
If wading through a 14 page legal decision isn’t your cup of tea (though I think it makes for a scintillating read!), here are some of the more relevant parts:
Summary of the case…
Section 11(2)(c) – Employer alleges that Union was not bargaining in good faith during recent round of negotiations – Union began public campaign for support which included a “blog” site check-us-out.net – Union published information on website Employer felt was false and misleading and which portrayed a false picture of what the Employer’s position was at the bargaining table – Employer alleges that these postings were intended to interfere with the negotiations for a collective agreement – Board denies application.
Board reviews jurisprudence related to “bargaining in good faith” – applies principles developed in cases involving section 11(1)(c) as provisions sufficiently similar in intent – Board determines that Union was publishing its interpretation of the Employer’s position to its members and the public through the website.
Analysis of the reason the board decided in the union’s favour…
It is not, we submit, unusual for there to be differing points of view during collective bargaining. Each side will want to “spin” their perspective of the events in bargaining to their best advantage in negotiations. The creation of the website by the Union was one of the vehicles utilized to provide the “spin” on proposals and the state of negotiations. Additionally, the website was a part of their public campaign to gain support for their position with the general public and so as to put pressure on the Library Board to make changes to their position.
Viewed objectively, we are satisfied that the Union presented its version of the Employer’s proposals on its website. That version was clearly one with which the Employer did not agree, and in respect of which, on many occasions it attempted to explain to the Union in bargaining. While the Union’s view as presented on the website may have been self interested, may have been a “spin” of the Employer’s position, and may have impacted on the Employer’s position at the bargaining table such that it finally withdrew its offered definition of “Permanent Employee” and added wording to Articles 30 and 33 to better define the impact of those proposals, it is not conduct which the Board finds censorable under s. 11(2)(c).
The Employer says that the Union perverted its intent while the Union says that it followed the black and white text of the Employer’s proposals. Taking a reasonable view of the postings on the website and the wording of the actual proposals and their impact, the postings by the Union were sufficiently accurate from its perspective to not cross the line
Reading this decision, I am reminded of the analysis by the noted philosopher and legal scholar, Nelson Muntz, in the decision Ha vs. Ha.
(And you can be sure that type of legal representation doesn’t come cheap!)