Home Arbitration/Labour Relations Radisson Blu Vancouver hotel in breach of labour code for undermining union, intimidating striking employees: Board

Radisson Blu Vancouver hotel in breach of labour code for undermining union, intimidating striking employees: Board

by HR Law Canada

The British Columbia Labour Relations Board (BCLRB) has found Radisson Blu Vancouver Airport Hotel and Marina in breach of several sections of the Labour Relations Code.

The allegations against the hotel primarily involved claims of intimidation and direct negotiations with employees, bypassing the union. The Union, UNITE HERE, Local 40, accused the hotel’s owner, S.R., of making promises and threats to employees on the picket line, as well as attempting to negotiate terms directly with them.

The Union, which represents the hotel’s employees, has been on a lawful strike since May 2021. During the hearings held on Sept. 8 and 13, 2023, six union witnesses testified about various interactions with Rai that were deemed to be intimidating or undermining the Union’s authority.

A former housekeeper testified that S.R. had approached picketers, offering “very good pay rate[s] and benefits” if the came inside to negotiate directly with him. Another witness recounted how S.R. showed her pictures of the kitchen under construction and told her that there were no longer jobs available in the kitchen, suggesting she should look for other work.

The owner’s comments to another employee about certain employees retiring and spending time with their grandchildren were seen as further attempts to undermine the strike. One of the witnesses testified that S.R. offered money to older workers if they retired, implying a direct negotiation outside of union involvement.

In his testimony, S.R. admitted to frequently communicating with picketers but denied any intent to intimidate or negotiate directly. However, the Board found that his comments and actions constituted a breach of Section 6(3)(d) of the Labour Relations Code, which prohibits intimidation and coercion of union members.

The Board also found that his offer to pay an employee to retire was a violation of Sections 11 and 27 of the Code, which grant the union exclusive authority to negotiate terms and conditions of employment. It noted that S.R.’s actions had the effect of undermining the union’s role and intimidating employees, thus compelling them to consider leaving the union.

“I am not persuaded that Rai was simply conveying operational realities to employees, especially when the information was inaccurate and had not yet been conveyed to the Union,” the board said. “The comments could have the impact of compelling these employees to discontinue their support of, and membership in, the Union.”

The Board ordered the hotel to cease and desist from further breaches of the Code, reinforcing the union’s role as the exclusive bargaining representative for the employees.

Key takeaways

  1. Employer Communication Boundaries: Employers can communicate with employees during a strike, but must avoid threats, promises, or any actions that could be interpreted as undermining the union’s authority.
  2. Union’s Exclusive Bargaining Rights: Employers must respect the union’s exclusive right to negotiate terms and conditions of employment and avoid direct negotiations with employees.
  3. Consequences of Intimidation: Intimidating comments or actions, even if not perceived as threats by the employees, can still constitute a breach if they can objectively be seen as exerting undue pressure on employees to leave the union or the picket line.

For more information see Radisson Blu Vancouver Airport Hotel and Marina, 2024 BCLRB 73

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