CLAC condemns council letter critical of union

McBride Village Council - Dec. 2014
McBride Village Council – Dec. 2014

By: Korie Marshall

Ryan Bruce, spokesperson for the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) says the recent letter from McBride Council to staff is another example of unfair labour practice.

McBride Council sent a letter to staff, dated Feb. 5th, affirming staff’s right to unionize and freedom to vote their conscience. The letter says the Village and Council are not opposed to collective representation by unions, and that Mayor Martin herself is a shop steward with the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union. It says the Village feels strongly that CLAC is not the right representative for this workplace.

Bruce says CLAC will be using the letter as evidence of unfair labour practice.

“We feel they’ve crossed some lines in terms of campaigning against us. They can have their preference as to whether or not they would like to remain non-union, but there are clearly elements in that letter that talk about not wanting CLAC, and that in our opinion is an unfair labour practice,” says Bruce.

Along with the unfair labour practice CLAC has filed regarding the dismissal of John Aitken, former supervisor of public works, Bruce says they have also filed complaints about the Village lobbying against unions at all, and against CLAC.

“We thought about filing another unfair,” says Bruce, “but we’ve decided to use it as evidence to support the two unfair claims we’ve already filed.”

The Goat erroneously reported last week that the CAO of McBride had signed the letter to staff regarding the union drive and CLAC. The copy we received was a draft with spaces for all members of Council and the CAO to sign, but the copy that went out to staff was not signed by Eliana Clements, McBride’s CAO. Mayor Loranne Martin says Clements wasn’t available to physically sign the letter.

Bruce doesn’t want to speculate what the lack of Clements’ signature means, but he says it perhaps calls into question who made the call to fire Aitken, as the CAO normally acts with the direction of Mayor and Council.

The parties have agreed that Aitken will remain on the Village payroll until at least March 13th 2015, pending a decision by the Labour Relations Board. The hearing was originally scheduled for Feb. 19th-20th, but Bruce says it has been moved to March 4th and 5th, with March 6th available as a third day if needed.

According to CLAC, Aitken was fired over the phone by Mayor Martin on Saturday Jan. 24th after attending a meeting with CLAC the night before, and helping with a community evacuation due to an ammonia leak at the arena. Sections 5 and 6 of the BC Labour Code prohibit an employer from discharging, suspending, transferring, or otherwise disciplining employees because they seek to unionize.

An initial hearing was held at the BC Labour Relations Board on Tuesday, Feb. 3rd on the certification of the union and a submission of unfair labour practice filed by the CLAC. The Labour Board has ordered a union vote by mail-in ballot, to be returned no later than Feb. 27th. The ballots will be sealed pending the board’s decision on the unfair labour practice charges and the challenges to the composition of the bargaining unit.