Aramark ruling clears path for HEU organizing in private sector
IWA Local 1-3567 showed no evidence of representing workers, says LRB
In a significant decision by the Labour Relations Board today,
the “partnership agreement” between the private health care contractor
Aramark Corporation and Industrial Wood and Allied Workers of Canada
Local 1-3567 has been declared null and void.
“There is no evidence the employees freely chose to be bound by the
collective agreement and represented by the IWA,” ruled a three-person
panel of the LRB led by vice-chair Jan O’Brien.
“The IWA has not demonstrated through membership evidence, a reasonable
ratification procedure or other adequate means that it actually
represents the employees. As a result, there is no collective agreement
in force and effect between Aramark and IWA. Accordingly, the voluntary
recognition agreement between IWA and Aramark cannot be held up as a bar
to the HEU’s applications for certification.”
The ruling clears a major hurdle in the effort of the contracted-out
workers to have a union of their choice. Aramark still has objections to
HEU’s certification applications which will be heard in June.
At issue were seven bargaining units at locations where Aramark provides
housekeeping under contract to the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority and
Providence Health Care. HEU has signed up a majority of these workers and
had applied to be certified for these bargaining units. But Aramark and
the IWA local had opposed the applications because of their “partnership
agreement”, which covered 650 employees at 30 sites in the Lower Mainland
and Sunshine Coast.
“This is very good news – the terrible IWA-Aramark agreement is now
history,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “This
decision reaffirms our position that these workers always had a choice –
a choice that was denied them by the ‘partnership agreement’.”
Among the factors the LRB considered in dismissing the agreement:
• No appropriate ratification. Aramark selected the IWA as the employees’
bargaining agent without having hired anyone and before the union had
signed any members. “The collective agreement was negotiated and signed
more than a month before any employees were hired. Clearly, the
collective agreement was reached without consulting any employees at all.”
• Insufficient evidence. Aramark and the IWA’s argument that no employees
had stepped forward to complain about the IWA or apply for
decertification does not prove that the IWA represents the employees.
• Lack of choice. “We are not satisfied that completing the Membership
Form as a necessary step to get a job is evidence the employees
were ‘freely choosing’ the IWA to represent them in collective
bargaining. In our view, the employees of the Aramark job fairs were
taking steps to be in a position to accept an individual offer of
employment” (as opposed to choosing the IWA as their union).
• Job fairs. “We do not find that employees involved in the [Aramark] job
fairs were able to express their true wishes about the ratification of
the voluntary recognition agreement when rejection of the agreement meant
that they would not be hired.”
• Hiring hall invalid. “The employees became members of the IWA as a
result of the compulsory union membership clause in the collective
agreement that was negotiated and signed before any employees were hired.
We do not find that the democratic rights of the employees were protected
in these circumstances.”
“Today’s ruling is a damning indictment of the IWA local’s unconscionable
organizing practices,” says Chris Allnutt.
“With this decision behind us, our union can now continue doing the
important work of organizing these health care workers and protecting
them from the worst excesses of the poorly conceived and disastrously
executed privatization policies of the BC Liberal government.”