The BC Labour Relations Board has recently granted leave for reconsideration of a decision involving the scope of an employer’s duty to disclose information during discussions pursuant to Section 54 of the Labour Relations Code. Section 54 requires an employer intending to introduce changes affecting the terms and conditions of employment of a significant number of employees to provide 60 days notice of the change to unions representing such employees and to meet to discuss an adjustment plan.
Certain health care employers planned to contract out support services as a result of Bill 29 – the Health and Social Services Delivery Improvement Act. The employers provided notice to the unions of these changes and met with the unions pursuant to Section 54. In the course of these discussions, the unions requested copies of documents submitted by contractors bidding on the support services contracts. The unions said they needed this information in order to explore alternatives to contracting out. When the employers refused to provide the requested documents, the unions applied to the Board alleging a breach of Section 54.
The Board ordered the employers to provide the union with copies of the disputed documents. The Board relied on amendments to the purposes of the Code set out in Section 2 which it said imposed a heightened duty on the Board to ensure that parties discharged their obligations under the Code in a manner consistent with Section 2 principles. The Board held that during adjustment plan discussions, parties are required to cooperate in confronting and resolving the problems they face. In the context of contracting out in the health care sector, the Board determined that it was necessary for the employers to disclose certain terms of contractors’ bid proposals and for the employers to engage in discussions and consideration of alternatives that the Union might propose.
The health care employers applied for reconsideration of the Board’s decision and also applied for a stay of the Board’s order to produce the documents. The application for a stay was denied. However the application for leave for reconsideration was granted. The Board has invited interveners from the labour relations community to make submissions on the reconsideration issue.
HEABC and Children and Women’s Health Care Centre of BC and BC Cancer Agency -and- HEU and Health Services and Support – Facilities Subsector Bargaining Association, BCLRB No. B415/2003, December 5, 2003