FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The TEL Group has officially applied with the Labour Relations Board to possibly commence a union raid of employees working for one of the main contractors building the Site C dam.
The TEL Group is comprised of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 213, The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 115, and The Construction and Specialized Workers Union Local 1611. According to IUOE representative Josh Towsley, the group of unions was contacted by employees of Peace River Hydro Partners about concerns that they had about the union that is currently representing them on the project, the Christian Labour Association of Canada.
According to Labour Relations Board rules, union raiding can only occur during the seventh and eighth months of a collective agreement, and only if the employees represented by one union approach another union about representing them.
Towsley says that in January the three unions were approved by the Labour Relations Board to begin attempting to recruit the CLAC’s members employed at Site C. Since then, the TEL Group says that they have had over fifty percent of the CLAC’s employees sign membership cards, and on Wednesday applied with the Labour Relations Board to commence the raid. If the TEL Group has achieved threshold of fifty percent plus one employee, the LRB will oversee a vote by the CLAC’s nearly 400 employees at Site C over which union will represent them as a bargaining unit.
CLAC Membership Development representative Ryan Bruce says that his union is confident that the TEL Group has not achieved threshold, based on conversations and engagement with the employees they represent. Bruce explained that if threshold hasn’t been reached, there is a good chance that the TEL Group’s raid would fail, since open season on the bargaining unit at Site C ends on April 20th. He added that if unsuccessful, the LRB would likely bar the TEL Group from raiding those employees for 22 months.
Labour Relations Board Information Officer Guy Pocklington says that the Board will now attempt to verify that the TEL Group has reached threshold by cross-referencing their membership card numbers with payroll records and employee lists from Peace River Hydro Partners. Pocklington says that the LRB will present their findings during a hearing that has been scheduled for next Thursday at the LRB, where both sides are likely to vigorously debate their positions.