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BC Labour Relations Board Dismisses Application to Certify Wal-Mart Store
October 13, 2004

The BC Labour Relations Board recently dismissed an application by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 1518 for certification of a Wal-Mart store in Terrace. This decision is the latest in a series involving this union’s attempts to certify Wal-Mart locations.

The union applied for certification of a bargaining unit of all employees at the store except, among others, all department managers. The union argued that the employer is in a “difficult to organize” sector and that, as a result, rules regarding bargaining unit descriptions should be relaxed. The key issue was whether department managers were properly excluded.

The Board found that the bargaining unit applied for was inappropriate for collective bargaining. First, there was a high degree of similarity in the work performed by a department manager and employees in that department, such that it was difficult to distinguish bargaining unit work. Second, department managers had no power to discipline or evaluate employees; indeed, the Board held that department managers were “employees” as defined in the Labour Relations Code. As a result, the Board concluded that department managers were functionally integrated with other employees in the proposed unit. Therefore, a unit which excluded department managers was inappropriate.

Due to this conclusion, the Board found it was unnecessary to decide whether the employer was in a difficult to organize sector.

The inclusion of the department managers resulted in the union have insufficient membership support to justify a representation vote. Consequently, the union’s application was dismissed.

This decision is of particular interest to employers in the retail industry, as it shows that the structure and organization of the workplace can have a key impact on the appropriateness of the bargaining unit applied for and, in turn, on the success of a certification application.

Wal-Mart Canada and United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Local 1518, BCLRB No. B291/2004, September 28, 2004.