Monday, March 7, 2011

First collective agreement--retroactive imposition is okay

In Osprey Care v. HEU issued on March 1, 2011, Vice Chair Ritu Mahil of the BC LRB dismissed Osprey’s application for review of an arbitrator’s decision in which, in the course of imposing a first collective agreement under s.55 of the Code, Arbitrator Vince Ready made the collective agreement retroactive to February 24, 2010 and set out an expedited process by which certain outstanding grievances would be resolved. The employer argued the arbitrator exceeded his jurisdiction.

Prior to the appointment of Vince Ready as binding mediator/arbitrator, a mediator had been appointed under s.74 of the Code and issued non-binding recommendations for a first collective agreement. The union accepted those recommendations on February 24, 2010. The employer rejected the recommendations and Mr. Ready was appointed in March 2010 to mediate/arbitrate the collective bargaining dispute. Mediation failed.

At the arbitration the employer stated it had changed its position; it now accepted the first mediator's recommendations and therefore there was nothing more to arbitrate. HEU did not agree asserting that the arbitrator had authority to deal with the effective date of the collective agreement and with the employment disputes that had arisen between the parties. The Board upheld Mr. Ready’s award,  finding that the Board’s previous decision in Royal City Manor B27/95 established that s.55 arbitrators could impose first contracts retroactively. Further Vice Chair Mahil ruled that a purposive interpretation of s.55 allowed the arbitrator to not only impose a first collective agreement, but to address “seething issues” between the parties in order to aid the “goal of establishing enduring bargaining relationships”. The order that outstanding disputes be resolved by a process of expedited arbitrations was upheld.

One should note that Vince Ready was one of the three members of the Commission appointed by the NDP government in 1991 that recommended revisions to the Labour Code, including the current first collective agreement provisions found in s. 55 of the Code.

Osprey Care is a for profit care facility in Kamloops.

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