Home Arbitration/Labour Relations Nova Scotia Labour Board upholds Boilermakers’ expulsion of apprentice who consumed 30 drinks, struck union official

Nova Scotia Labour Board upholds Boilermakers’ expulsion of apprentice who consumed 30 drinks, struck union official

by HR Law Canada

A Nova Scotia union was justified in kicking a worker out of its apprenticeship training program and stripping him of his membership after he consumed more thank 30 alcoholic drinks at a celebration and slapped a union official in the face.

SC was expelled from the Boilermakers Apprenticeship Training Program and stripped of his membership in Local 73 of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, following an incident at a union event last year.

The matter recently came before the Nova Scotia Labour Board, as the individual alleged he was treated in a discriminatory manner, contrary to s.54(f) of the Trade Union Act.

Celebration gone wrong

The event in question was held on Nov. 16, 2022, to celebrate and congratulate the graduating class of apprentices.

The evening’s activities included dinner and bowling at a local alley, with alcohol made freely available. The complainant, who had begun his apprenticeship in January 2021, consumed what he believed were more than 30 drinks throughout the evening — including double vodkas and beer.

“For most people, such an alcohol load would probably be fatal or close to it,” the Board said. “But (SC) evidently has an enormous tolerance built up over many years as an alcoholic and heavy drinker.”

The incident occurred around 8:30 p.m., outside the bowling lanes. The complainant had already been cut off by bar staff for being noticeably intoxicated and behaving obnoxiously.

The union’s assistant business manager, MD, followed him outside to ensure he left safely. He offered him a cab, but SC had no interest and started to walk back towards the entrance of the bowling alley.

Surveillance footage shows that when MD attempted to physically prevent SC from re-entering the venue, the complainant struck him in the face.

“(MD) told the complainant that he was not going to allow him back in, even if ‘you slap me.’ He probably should not have made that comment as within a few seconds that is exactly what happened,” the Board said. “(MD) stayed on his feet but testified that the impact was so hard that he thought he had been punched.  The impact left red marks on his face that lasted for many hours.  This was witnessed by others.”

After SC left, he drove to another drinking establishment and had more drinks before driving home. While with friends at the bar, he bragged about having “bitch slapped” MD.

Expelled by union

The next day, the union invoked its regulations against insubordination and expelled the complainant, a decision later upheld by the Apprenticeship Trust Fund Committee. During his appeal, SC admitted to struggling with alcoholism but failed to establish a link between his condition and the act of insubordination.

The ruling noted: “The Complainant’s alcoholism does not explain his violent behaviour. As such, accommodation is not triggered.”

It also pointed out that the Complainant had already completed his apprenticeship work and received his certification, so the practical effect of terminating the apprenticeship was minimal. However, his expulsion from the union means he is now unable to work in the trade for any unionized contractor.

“(SC) has undoubtedly paid a high price for his behaviour that evening,” the Board said.

The Board concluded that while they sympathized with the Complainant’s situation, there was no evidence to suggest that the Union had treated him in a discriminatory fashion.

“We do not see any evidence that the Union treated him any differently because he is an alcoholic.  Nor do we have any evidence that the alcoholism caused or contributed to his behaviour,” it said.

The complaint was dismissed.

For more information, see S.C. v International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Local 73, 2023 NSLB 146 (CanLII)

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