The BC Labour Relations Board recently ruled that the Personal Information Protection Act (the “PIPA“) does not justify an employer’s refusal to provide a union with bargaining unit member names, addresses, home telephone numbers and wage rates in the context of negotiations for a new collective agreement.
The PIPA regulates the collection, use and disclosure of personal information by private organizations in British Columbia. “Personal information” is defined as information about an identifiable individual. In many situations, the PIPA requires an organization to obtain express or implied consent from an individual before it may collect, use or disclose his or her personal information. However, the statute sets out exceptions to this consent requirement, including circumstances where the collection, use or disclosure of personal information is “required or authorized by law”.
The Board noted that, in the absence of consent, the PIPA prohibits an employer and a trade union from collecting, using or disclosing personal information of bargaining unit members unless such collection, use or disclosure falls within one of the exceptions. In this case, there was no express or implied consent to disclosure by employees. However, the Board concluded that the disclosure sought by the union was “required or authorized by law”, as the Labour Relations Code imposes a duty on employers to bargain in good faith. That duty requires an employer to comply with union requests for information “necessary to ensure rational, informed discussion” during negotiations. As a result, the union’s request fell within an authorized exception to the consent requirement under the Act.