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Employer Free Speech Expanded
March 6, 2003

The BC Labour Relations Board has issued an important decision on rights of employers to communicate with their employees about union representaion. The decision published February 20, 2003 analyses the effect of 2002 legislative amendments to the BC Labour Relations Code on an employer’s right to communicate with employees during an organizing drive. In Convergys Customer Management Canada Inc, the Board confirms that amendments to Section 8 of the Code and related provisions significantly expand an employer’s ability to communicate with employees about union representation. Section 8 addresses the right to communicate and provides that a person has the freedom to express his or her views “on any matter”, provides he or she does not use intimidation or coercion.

The Board found that Section 8 protects an employer’s right to express his or her views on any matter to employees, even if those views are unreasonable or critical of the Union. The following quote from the decision summarizes the Board’s conclusion:

“Taken as the whole, the Legislature’s amendments to Sections 2, 6(1) and 8 reflect important judgements about the ability of employees to make free choices about union representation, despite attempts to influence their decision-making through the expression of views that are not coercive or intimidating. The amendments reflect the confidence that a reasonable employee can make inquiries and assess these views, knowing that most often, their employer will view their participation in a union and collective bargaining as contrary to the employer’s self-interest. Hence the expression of non-coercive or non-intimidating views based on the preference to resist certification are prima facie protected by Section 8 and do not constitute interference for the purposes of Section 6(1). This reasoning equally applies if views are expressed in what might be characterized as a campaign to influence employees’ decision-making about union representation. In the absence of a deliberate lie, it is not the Board’s role to police the accuracy or reasonableness of views expressed in accordance with Section 8.”