The Supreme Court of Canada handed down the Bernard v. AG of Canada and PIPSC decision on Friday.
Elizabeth Bernard complained that her employer the Federal Government should not provide her home contact information to the union that represented employees in the bargaining unit in which she was a member.
Under federal legislation Bernard could opt out of union membership but was required to be a member of the bargaining unit for which the union has exclusive bargaining agency with the right to union representation and the obligation to pay union dues. This is what is referred to a “Rand formula” employee.
Bernard argued that by disclosing her home contact information the employer violated her privacy as she did not consent to the disclosure. She further argued that the disclosure amounted to forced association with the union contrary to s.2(d) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Supreme Court of Canada disagreed with her. First, privacy rights were not violated because the disclosure was consistent with the purpose for which the information was initially collected, i.e. for the purpose of being contacted about terms and conditions of employment. Second, and to me most importantly, the Court ruled that the provision of the information did not engage her s.2(d) of the Charter associational rights.
The court confirmed that “a cornerstone of labour relations law in this country” is the principle of majoritarian exclusivity, i.e. that the union has the exclusive right to bargain on behalf of all employees in a given bargaining unit, including Rand employees. It went on to find that, “the compelled disclosure of home contact information in order to allow a union to carry out is representational obligations to all bargaining unit members does not engage Ms. Bernard’s freedom not to associate with the union.” (para 37)