Home Arbitration/Labour Relations Fired Irving Shipbuilding worker’s attempt to skip internal DFR process at Unifor shot down by Nova Scotia Labour Board

Fired Irving Shipbuilding worker’s attempt to skip internal DFR process at Unifor shot down by Nova Scotia Labour Board

by HR Law Canada

A former Irving Shipbuilding worker has had his duty of fair representation complaint against Unifor dismissed as premature by the Nova Scotia Labour Board.

The worker, JS, was terminated in February 2023. Instead of pursuing an internal complaint with his union, he filed a case with the board against Unifor and its representative in August 2023. It centred on allegations of unfair representation following his dismissal.

The complaint alleged that Unifor failed to fulfill its duty of fair representation (DFR) as outlined in Section 54A(3) of the Trade Union Act. Specifically, JS accused Unifor of acting in an arbitrary, discriminatory, and bad-faith manner by not pursuing arbitration after his termination.

However, the Labour Board dismissed the complaint as premature under Section 55(3)(a)(ii) of the Trade Union Act, citing that Sutton had not utilized the internal appeal procedures available in the Unifor constitution.

This decision aligns with previous cases where the Board emphasized the necessity for complainants to first seek resolution through internal union processes. The Unifor constitution, publicly available on its website, details a review process under Article 18, allowing members to challenge decisions they believe are unfair or lack rational basis.

The Board’s analysis highlighted that JS did not file an internal appeal as required, noting that union members must educate themselves and engage with available appeal processes before seeking external intervention. This principle was underscored in the 2019 case M.A. v. Union and P.C., Union Representative, where the Board stated that ignorance of such processes is insufficient grounds to bypass them.

The Board noted that, should JS exhaust the internal procedures, he could complain to it again at a later date if he remains of the view that Unifor did not properly represent him.

For more information, see Sutton v Unifor M.W.F., Local 1, 2023 NSLB 180 (CanLII).

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