Legal News

Accretion Agreement Requires Evidence of Employee Support Before It Will Bar A Competing Union
December 8, 2003

In a November 13, 2003 decision, the BC Labour Relations Board held that an accretion clause in a collective agreement between an employer and a union will not necessarily render another union’s application for certification for employees covered by that clause an untimely raid.

The Christian Labour Association of Canada (“CLAC”) was originally certified to represent a unit composed of seven of the Employer’s bus drivers, who were working in Fort Nelson. In their collective agreement, the Employer and CLAC agreed to an accretion clause, which provided that drivers hired at other locations in BC would also be covered. The Employer subsequently obtained a school bus contract in Prince George. It hired 80 new bus drivers, and treated them as covered by the collective agreement, in accordance with the accretion clause.

During the ninth month of the CLAC collective agreement, the Teamsters Local 31 applied to be certified to represent a unit of the Prince George drivers. CLAC objected, claiming that the Teamsters’ application amounted to an untimely raid because its bargaining unit covered the drivers in question. The Teamsters asserted that the accretion clause had no application, because the Prince George drivers had not ratified the CLAC collective agreement.

The Board observed that this case exposed a tension between the basic majoritarian principle on which representation under the Code is based, and a competing Code principle: the value of promoting the parties’ private ordering of their collective bargaining relationship. The Board commented that the effect, if any, of a voluntary recognition agreement will be determined on a case by case basis. In each case the Board will seek to strike an appropriate balance between the majoritarian and private ordering principles.

In the present case, the Board permitted the Teamsters’ application for certification. The Board held that ordinarily it will give effect to voluntary agreements unless there is an objection. If there is an objection, or the voluntary agreement is relied upon as a bar to a certification application by another union, the Board may require the party relying on the voluntary recognition agreement to demonstrate that it has organized and obtained the support of the majority of employees in the unit. This will also apply if the voluntary recognition was achieved through an accretion clause.

Diversified Transportation Ltd., BCLRB No. B382/2003, November 13, 2003.

(click here for full text of the judgment)