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Union Must Pay $25,000 and Special Costs for Contempt
May 4, 2012

The BC Supreme Court has issued a fine of $25,000 to a union as a penalty for contempt of court arising out of an ongoing labour dispute. The union was also ordered to pay the employer special costs on account of its “reprehensible conduct” in breaching the Court’s orders.

The Court’s award arises from an order issued in June 2011 restraining the union and its members from engaging in certain activities at points of access to the employer’s business premises. In August and December 2011, the Court found the union in contempt for wilful disobedience of that order. This recent decision addressed the appropriate penalty for the union’s wilful disobedience.

In imposing a fine of $25,000, the Court focussed on a number of considerations favouring a substantial penalty, including the encouragement and active participation of union officials in the wilful disobedience, the repeated instances and calculated nature of the disobedience, the union’s multiple breaches of the same order, and its failure to acknowledge the disobedience. The fine was suspended for 30 days to allow the union an opportunity to purge its contempt by paying that sum to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society.

The Court also ordered the union to pay special costs to the employer. Special costs are generally only ordered for outrageous, scandalous or reprehensible conduct deserving rebuke from the court, or to punish parties who, through their conduct, have interfered with the proper administration of justice.

This decision sends a clear message that contemptuous conduct by unions and their members in the context of labour disputes will not be tolerated by the Court.

Great Canadian Railtour Company Ltd. v. Teamsters Union, Local 31, 2012 BCSC 632

If you have any questions concerning the information in this article, please contact Geoffrey Litherland, Partner.