Unions deserve access to company-collected email addresses: Labour board

B.C. labour board sides with union after company refuses information
|labour-reporter.com|Last Updated: 05/09/2012

The BC Labour Relations Board (LRB) has ruled that provincially regulated employers with unionized employees must provide the union with the email addresses of its members upon request.

The Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union filed a complaint with the LRB against Viking Air — an aircraft parts manufacturer based in Victoria — when the company moved to a paperless payroll system, which required all employees to provide an email address.

The union argued it should be privy to this information so that it has equal footing with the company in terms of employee contact information. Access to this information is a right and should be broadly interpreted, the union said.

The CAW’s application was initially turned down by the LRB on Jan. 24, 2012:

“In order for the union to succeed, I would have to find the email addresses are needed for the union to meet its statutory obligation to represent its members,” the original ruling reads. “However, I do not find this to be the case.”

In its appeal, the CAW stressed that obtaining email addresses for its members was important given changes in technology and its members’ preferred methods of communication.

On April 25, 2012, the LRB overturned its original decision, ruling unanimously in favour of the union.

“The key determination is… [one] in which it is concluded that the bargaining unit members’ email addresses in the possession of the Employer are not ‘needed for the union to meet its statutory obligation to represent its members’,” the board said in its final ruling. “We do not find that conclusion to be consistent with the principles expressed or implied in the code or the board’s previous decisions in respect to this issue.”

Provincially regulated employers in B.C. must now provide not only names, addresses and phone numbers to any union upon request, but must also provide email addresses of members if it collects them, as long as the information can be easily supplied and the employer does not have a sound business reason to refuse to provide the information, according to the ruling.

“We believe that this decision is one of the first in Canada to deal explicitly with the issue of email addresses, and the highest decision from any labour board on this issue to date,” the CAW said in a statement on its website. “We believe this decision is a major step forward into the twenty-first century in the labour movement’s ability to represent and communicate with our members.”

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