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2009

Court has jurisdiction over defamation action brought by unionized employee against employer

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia
Sector: - Education

The BC Court of Appeal has overturned a lower court decision that held that a public school teacher's defamation action against his principal and school board was a matter that arose under the collective agreement and was thus not within in the court's jurisdiction.

Background

The teacher, while off on a medical leave, attended the school and caused a disturbance that resulted in criminal charges and disciplinary action by the BC College of Teachers. (The College's disciplinary action was subsequently overturned by the court on the basis that the teacher had been incompetent due to his medical condition).

As part of the same court action, the teacher brought the defamation action in relation to comments the principal had allegedly made to a police officer.  read more »

BC Human Rights Tribunal does not have jurisdiction to deal with matter already decided by the WCB Review Divsion

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia

The decision in Workers Compensation Board v. British Columbia (Human Rights Tribunal) 2009 BCSC 377, which was released today, was concerned with whether the BC Human Rights Tribunal (BCHRT) had the jurisdiction to reconsider the same complaints that had already been dealt with by the Review Division of the Workers Compensation Board ("WCB").

Facts

Three complainants who suffer from chronic pain due to work related injuries applied to the Review Division, the WCB's internal appeal body, for a finding that the WCB's chronic pain policy constituted discrimination under section 8 of the BC Human Rights Code (the "Code").

Decision of the Review Division

The Review Division Officer, who had 34 years of experience and a Masters of Law degree, found that the policy did not contravene the Code, or alternatively if it did, there was a bona fide and reasonable justification.  read more »

Employment Insurance figures in for January 2009

Statistics Canada released the January 2009 Employment Insurance figures today. According to the agency, the number of people receiving regular EI benefits across Canada increased by 23,700 (4.4%) from December 2008. The total number of people receiving regular benefits in Canada in Janaury was 560,400.

As it relates to BC:

  • there were 56,100 beneficiaries in January, up 4,630 (9.0%) from December 2008.
  • compared to January 2008, there was an increase of 18,120 (47.7%) beneficiaries.

As it relates to Vancouver:

  • the number of beneficiaries in January 2009 was 26,020, up from 16,790 in January 2008. This is an increase of 9,230 or 55.0%.

New government in BC often means new labour and employment laws

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia

With the May 12, 2009 provincial election fast approaching, a new Ipsos Reid poll is showing that the BC Liberals have the support of 46% of voters with the BC NDP Party sitting at 35%.

Given the polarized nature of BC politics, and the implications this can have for labour and employment laws, it is timely to look back at the workplace related promises that were in the "New Era" platform that the BC Liberals ran on in 2001, when they were first elected government. Many of these promises were enacted into law in the 2002 legislative session.

Labour Relations Code  read more »

The level of unionization in British Columbia

Topics: - Workforce Trends
Jurisdiction: - British Columbia

In a post last week regarding the possible revival of the labour movement in the US, I noted that the level of unionization in that country had shrunk from 35% in the mid-1950s to about 8% today.

What is the currrent level of unionization in BC and across Canada? In the Business Council of British Columbia's most recent Industrial Relations Bulletin on this issue (September 23, 2008), it states that during the first half of 2008:  read more »

Unite Here Local 40 and Aramark Sports and Entertainment reach tentative agreement

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia

The Vancouver Sun reported yesterday that Unite Here Local 40 and Aramark Sports and Entertainment reached a tentative collective agreement on March 20, 2009 for the food and beverage workers at GM Place.

According to the article, the tentative agreement, which is retroactive to December 11, 2008 and has a three year term, includes the following:

  • wage increases of 17 to 22% for non-tipped workers;
  • wage increases for tipped workers;
  • options for improving medical coverage; and
  • guarantees that workers are going to get the opportunity to work during the Olympics.

The enforceability of settlement agreements in wrongful dismissal cases

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia

In the recent decision of Burnett v. Rexel Canada Electrical Inc. 2009 BCSC 314, the court discussed the law on settlement agreements in wrongful dismissal cases.

The underlying facts in the case were that the employer had, as a condition of the agreement, required that the plaintiff/former employee sign a statutory declaration that included the following statements:

  • I have not received an offer of employment; and
  • I do not have any current expectation of receiving an offer of employment.

Within hours of signing the declaration, however, the plaintiff recieved an unexpected offer of employment. The employer was suspicious of the timing and refused to pay out the settlment funds.  read more »

Contextual factors to consider when assessing whether employer has just cause to dismiss an employee

Jurisdiction: - Ontario

A new test for dismissing an employee for just cause was established by the Supreme Court of Canada in McKinley v B.C Tel, 2001 SCC 38. In that case the Court stated that, among other things, employers must undertake a contextual analysis of ths misconduct.

In a recent case - Corso v. Nebs Business Products Limited, [2009] O.J. No. 1092
(Ont.S.C.J.)  - the Ontario Superior Court set out a useful checklist of the contextual factors that should be considered.

The case concerned the dismissal of an employee who, in the face of a detailed Conflict of Interest policy, covertly developed a computer program product that would be detrimental to the employer's core business.

The checklist is as follows:  read more »

BC Nurses Union Reaches Tentative Agreement

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia
Sector: - Health Care

The BC Nurses Union and the Nurses' Bargaining Association have reached a tentative agreement with the Ministry of Health Services, health authorities and HEABC to extend the current Provincial Collective Agreement for an additional 24 months. The BCNU has scheduled a ratification vote for April 8, 2009.

You can read more about the tentative agreement here.

The revival of the labour movement in the United States?

Topics: - Workforce Trends
Jurisdiction: - United States

There is an interesting article in this week's The Economist (March 14-20, 2009) about the possible revival of the labour movement in the United States.

The article, entitled "In from the cold?", notes that current political/legal events in the US coupled with the change in attitudes and economic realties brought on by the recession, may provide an opportunity for unions to increase memberships and influence after decades of decline that have seen the percentage of the American workforce that is unionized shrink from 35% in the mid-1950s to about 8% today.

The positive developments on the political/legal front noted in the article include the following:  read more »

"Accounting for Pensions: Addressing Employees’ Pension Entitlements in Wrongful Dismissal Litigation & Settlement Negotiations"

Mitch Frazer and Tara Sastri from Torys LLP presented a paper on "Accounting for Pensions: Addressing Employees' Pension Entitlements in Wrongful Dismissal Litigation and Settlement Negotiations" at the Ontario Bar Association CLE - 8th Annual Current Issues in Employment Law (February 25, 2009).

The Precis of the paper is as follows:  read more »

The use of social media and internet searches in the hiring process

Jurisdiction: - Manitoba

Donna Seale is a lawyer in Manitoba with her own consulting company, Donna M. Seale Consulting Services. She also has a blog ("Human Rights in the Workplace") and recently wrote an informative three-part series on the legal implications of using social networking sites and internet searches in the hiring process. Part One can be read here.

Production Manager at pulp mill entitled to 20 months notice

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia
Sector: - Forestry

Mr. Zaitsoff was dismissed without cause from his position as a Production Manager at a pulp mill in Castelgar. He was 46 years old and had worked at the mill for 19 years. He had four people reporting directly to him and 215 indirectly reporting. He earned $142,000 per year.

Notice Period

In relation to the fourth "Ansari" principle, the plaintiff pointed to the lack of available jobs in the pulp and paper industry, particularly in the current economic downturn.

In awarding the plaintiff 20 months, the court stated that while the lack of available employment opportunities resulting from a depressed economy is a factor to be taken into account, it “must not be given undue emphasis”.

Discounted Notice Period
 read more »

New rules for Records of Employment submitted electronically by employers

Effective today, there are some new rules in place for Records of Employment submitted electronically by employers to Services Canada through its online services. You can read about the new rules here.

2009 Accommodation Law Conference

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia

The 2009 Accommodation Law Conference is being held in Vancouver on May 27 & 28 at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver.

It will adress "New legal breakthroughs in the duty to accommodate and their impact on union and employer representatives in Canada".

The conference is being put on by the Centre for Labour-Management Development.

Union counsel presenters are Theo Arsenault, Gary Bainbridge, Gino Fiorillo, and Shona Moore, Q.C. Employers counsel presenters are: Chuck Harrison. Michael Wagner, Kevin Wilson and Andrea Zwack.

British Columbia's unemployment rate increases to 6.7 percent

Topics: - Workforce Trends
Jurisdiction: - Alberta - British Columbia - Ontario - Quebec

British Columbia's unemployment rate increased to 6.7 percent in February, according to the Statistics Canada "Labour Force Survey" that was released today. This is up from 6.1 percent in January 2009.

Nationally, the unemployment rate rose to 7.7 percent in February, up 0.5 percent from January. The largest decline in employment occurred in Ontario (-35,000), followed by Alberta (-24,000) and Quebec (-18,000).

A decrease of 43,000 in construction positions accounted for over half of the employment decline in February. The only industries with gains were manufacturing and agriculture.

This Canadian Press story today lists some of the specific layoffs that have been announced in Canada in 2009. Among them are Howe Sound Pulp and Paper's announcement earlier ths week that it will be lay off 101 unionized positions at its operations on the Sunshine Coast. The employees are members of Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, Local 1119.

Food and beverage workers at GM Place vote 83% in favour of a strike

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia

The Vancouver Sun reported today that close to 750 food and beverage workers at GM Place voted 83% in favour of a strike last weekend.

The employees are represented by Unite Here Local 40. The employer is Aramark Sports and Entertainment. The collective agreement expired in December 2008.

You can read the full article here.

BC government introduces labour mobility bill in legislature

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia

The BC Government introduced a labour mobility bill in the legislature today.

According to the explanatory note that accompanies it, Bill 9 - 2009 (the Labour Mobility Act):

...allows certified workers from other jurisdictions to practise
their occupations in British Columbia in accordance with Chapter Seven
of the Agreement on Internal Trade, and, in particular, provides that
British Columbia regulators must consider and apply Chapter Seven when
workers who are certified for an occupation in a signatory jurisdiction
apply to obtain British Columbia certification for that occupation. It
allows the Supreme Court to consider whether Chapter Seven has been
correctly applied and to make directions where that has not been the
case.
 read more »