B.C. LPNs to vote on joining new union or staying put

Labour board allows nurses' union to raid other unions
|labour-reporter.com|Last Updated: 05/16/2012

The BC Labour Relations Board (LRB) has ordered a vote to be held that will allow about 7,000 licensed practical nurses (LPNs) to cast ballots indicating whether they’d like to join the British Columbia Nurses’ Union (BCNU).

In November 2011, the BCNU filed six applications to represent LPNs at all sites owned by the regional health authorities and Providence Health Care that are covered by the health facilities subsector collective agreement.

The LRB allowed the applications to pass on May 9. If the LPNs choose to switch unions, it will be one of the largest movements in B.C. history where employees have mobilized to change unions.

The BCNU argues LPNs are full members of the nursing profession and should be allowed to join a nurses’ union if they want to do so.

Currently, LPNs are represented by the Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU), the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) and the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE). These unions have repeatedly asked the LRB to reject the BCNU’s raid efforts.

“Although BCNU’s aggressive raid activity has triggered these votes, we are confident that most LPNs will vote to support the HEU — regardless of whether or not they signed a card,” a notice on the HEU website reads.

A number of legal issues were considered by the LRB before reaching the decision. One of the main issues at hand was whether it is appropriate for one union to raid another union in only one particular job classification. In this circumstance, it’s important to give employees a voice by allowing them to vote on which union they prefer, LRB vice-chair Elena Miller ruled.

In 2009, BCNU filed several raid applications with the LRB, indicating support from LPNs from across the province. However, the LRB determined the BCNU did not sign up enough LPNs and dismissed their raid applications.

The vote is expected in the coming weeks.

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