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Canada Labour Relations Board Delivers a Stinging Rebuke

July 1, 1986 -

Relations between Local 1374 of the Amalgamated Transit Union and Brewster Transport Company Ltd. of Calgary ran into deep trouble last year. In the face of tough economic circumstances, the company had demanded wage concessions and the union agreed to roll back wages from $11.75 to $10.20 per hour. But on June 1, 1985, the union accused the company of bargaining in bad faith and making unreasonable demands, and went on strike. The strike soon turned ugly as picket-line violence erupted and two company buses were burned.

On June 27, 1985, the company wrote to the union demanding further concessions in overtime rates and representation rights, payment for damages, and the right to retain employees hired during the strike in preference to striking employees. The CLRB found these demands to be illegal, and ordered the company to reoffer its previous proposals and pay striking workers for lost wages. The company appealed this decision, and on June 6, 1986, the second CLRB panel upheld the original decision. The company and the union have subsequently reached an agreement.

This precedent-setting decision of the CLRB sent a stinging rebuke to the company and a reminder that companies cannot escape their legal obligations under the Canada Labour Code. It also confirms that the Alberta employees covered by this Code have greater protection than those covered by provincial labour legislation.

Naturally, Mr. R.L. Saarinen, president of Local 1374, was delighted. "I hope this sends a message to all employers," he said. David Morrison, president and chief executive officer of Brewster Transport, said that the ruling has significant meaning "in terms of what happens in the Board's jurisdiction. It has taught us to be careful before you call anybody's bluff" (Cecil Foster, Globe and Mail, June 18, 1986).