Home Arbitration/Labour Relations Federal Court rejects collective agreement argument from Coca-Cola job applicant, says employer’s core business determines jurisdiction

Federal Court rejects collective agreement argument from Coca-Cola job applicant, says employer’s core business determines jurisdiction

by HR Law Canada

A job applicant at Coca-Cola has lost his appeal of an earlier ruling by the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) that it had no jurisdiction over the company and its union because it’s not federally regulated.

The initial complaint arose from issues related to the applicant’s job applications at Coca-Cola Canada Bottling Ltd . Both the CIRB’s Registrar and a Vice-Chairperson had previously determined that the CIRB could not process the applicant’s complaints of unfair labour practice and duty of fair representation against both the company and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, Local 175.

This was based on the conclusion that Coca-Cola’s labour relations are subject to provincial, not federal regulation.

Justice Gleason cited the Constitution Act, 1867, and the Canada Labour Code to clarify the jurisdictional boundaries. According to these, Parliament has jurisdiction over labour relations in federal works, undertakings, or businesses. However, Coca-Cola does not fall under this category, as its core business activities are governed by provincial legislation.

This distinction is critical, Justice Gleason noted, referring to historical precedents like the Labour Conventions case and the Stevedoring Reference, which have defined the scope of federal and provincial jurisdiction in labour relations.

The applicant’s argument that the contents of a collective agreement could influence jurisdiction was rejected. The court emphasized that the nature of the employer’s core business is the key determinant for jurisdictional purposes, a principle established in the Canadian Pacific Railway Co. v. Attorney-General of British Columbia case.

“The contents of any collective agreement applicable to an employer and its employees is not relevant to determining whether the Code applies to them. It is rather the nature of the employer’s core business that governs,” the court said.

Furthermore, the court clarified that the Motor Vehicle Operators Hours of Work Regulations do not extend federal jurisdiction to the applicant’s case, as these regulations apply only to drivers employed by businesses under federal regulation.

“There are provincial regulations and legislation that apply to drivers who are employed by businesses, like Coca-Cola, whose labour relations are subject to provincial regulation,” it said.

In conclusion, the Federal Court of Appeal found no error in the CIRB’s assessment and dismissed the application, reinforcing the principle that jurisdiction in labour relations is primarily determined by the nature of the employer’s core business.

For more information, see Sieluzycki v. Coca-Cola Canada Bottling Limited, 2023 FCA 251 (CanLII).

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