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BC arbitrator upholds confidentiality policies of health employer
September 2, 2004

In a recent decision, arbitrator Donald R. Munroe, Q.C., denied a claim by the British Columbia Nurses Union (BCNU) that the Vancouver Island Health Authority (“the Employer”) had violated the collective agreement by imposing two confidentiality policies upon the employees. The arbitrator also denied the BCNU’s claim that the policies were unreasonable and should therefore be declared void.

The two policies in issue were the Personal Information Policy, requiring employees to maintain the confidentiality of patient information, and the Business Information Policy, which directed employees to maintain the confidentiality of VIHA’s business information, and the business information of third parties. The issue arose when the Employer required each employee to sign an acknowledgement stating that they had read and understood the policies and that they understood there would be consequences for violating the policies.

The arbitrator concluded that the Employer had the right to introduce workplace policies. He also found that the individual ‘Confidentiality Acknowledgements’ did not interfere with the BCNU’s bargaining agency as it related to the administration of the collective agreement including the grievance procedure. Further, he determined that the policies were not overly vague or ambiguous and that a working understanding of the employees’ obligations could be discerned from each. While he conceded that the policies would at times require explanation in their application, the arbitrator maintained that this was no reason to describe the policies as unreasonable or void.

Vancouver Island Health Authority (Health Employers Association of British Columbia) and British Columbia Nurses’ Union, (Munroe).