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Labour Relations Board dismisses application by construction employers to consolidate multiple bargaining units
July 27, 2004

The employers, Farmer Construction Ltd. and PCL Constructors Canada Inc., applied for an order from the Labour Relations Board consolidating their multiple bargaining units so that the existing craft-based bargaining units would be replaced by an all-employee unit represented by the BC Provincial Council of Carpenters.

The employers argued that consolidation was appropriate because their current multi-unit structure gave rise to operational inefficiencies and jurisdictional disputes. These inefficiencies allegedly interfered with the employers’ ability to bid competitively. Further, the employers contended that, although they had tried to resolve operational inefficiencies through collective bargaining with the various unions, they had not been able to reach a resolution with all of them. The employers proposed that a single bargaining unit would eliminate these difficulties.

In response, the unions argued that the employers had not raised a prima facie case and had not presented sufficient evidence to demonstrate that consolidation was appropriate.

The Labour Relations Board concluded that the employers had provided insufficient evidence to demonstrate that the multi-bargaining structure rendered them uncompetitive. The employers had not demonstrated that they suffered from significant operational inefficiencies, nor had they proven there was any significant industrial unrest as a result of the multi-bargaining unit structure. Further, the Board held that the employers had not proved their bargaining relationships were unlikely to improve in the future. There was no evidence that the employers had attempted to follow different bargaining procedures and had been unsuccessful, nor had they proven that the length of time to achieve a collective agreement resulted from the structure of the bargaining unit, as opposed to the nature of the demands advanced by the unions.

In the result, the Board concluded that a “lack of evidentiary substance” was fatal to the employers’ application for consolidation.

Re Farmer Construction Ltd. BCLRB Decision No. B217/2004, June 29, 2004