As you may know, UFV and the UFV Faculty and Staff Association (FSA) recently participated in a BC Labour Relations Board (LRB) hearing. The hearing was initiated by the FSA who alleged the university interfered with the administration of the FSA and committed unfair labour practices towards the FSA. The university disputed these allegations.
The LRB acknowledged this case was the first under the British Columbia Labour Relations Code (the Code) to address the question of an employer investigating bullying and harassment complaints from union officials against other union officials.
UFV believes it is important you have access to the details, background, and the findings of the LRB.
The university received complaints of bullying and harassment from two UFV employees who were on leave from their regular positions and serving as FSA executives. These complaints were filed against three other FSA executives. The complaints were made under the UFV discrimination, bullying, and harassment prevention policy, UFV Policy 18.
The two claimants subsequently went on sick leave and filed claims with WorkSafe BC. The FSA demanded immediate release to replace these staff members and immediate access to their offices.
As a result of the complaints under Policy 18, UFV initiated an investigation with the intent of ensuring the university was meeting its obligations under this policy.
The FSA alleged the university was interfering with the administration of the union and intimidating the FSA, in violation of sections 6(1) and 6(3)(d) of the Code.
The main issue addressed by the LRB was the union’s claim the university had interfered with the administration of the FSA and sought to intimidate the FSA executive respondents.
The Labour Relations Board’s decision:
The LRB did not find evidence that the university had acted with any anti-union sentiment (referred to as “animus” by the LRB).
The LRB dismissed the FSA’s claim that the university sought to intimidate the FSA Executive respondents from continuing to serve as FSA officers.
The LRB considered, on the one hand, the university’s obligations under Policy 18 and its interest in maintaining a harmonious, harassment-free workplace, versus the FSA’s interest in protecting its internal processes and affairs from disclosure to the employer.
In weighing these interests, the LRB determined the university over-reached in asserting its interests under Policy 18 and thus breached the Code.
The LRB also addressed whether the university had interfered with the administration of the FSA by delaying access to the offices in order to ensure privacy rights were respected, and delaying approval of leave requests until coverage was in place.
The LRB found that denying both breached the Code.
UFV appreciates the LRB providing clarity and direction on these issues for which there was no legal precedent in BC.
The LRB has decided:
- That release time be granted to the appointed staff members until the incumbents return from their sick leaves; and
- That the university and the FSA meet and attempt to mutually determine an appropriate process to address the intra-FSA bullying and harassment complaints.
In the interest of maintaining privacy, and well prior to this decision, in December 2017, representatives of the university, the FSA, and the LRB accessed the offices and provided the FSA with all FSA property and files.
With regard to delaying leave approval, prior to the preliminary LRB hearing in December, and within eight working days of the FSA request, UFV provided interim release time for two employees to replace two union executives on medical leave. The normal notice required under the collective bargaining agreement for this type of release is two months.
UFV is committed to collaborating with all members of the university community in providing an inclusive and safe environment that is supportive of working, learning, teaching, scholarship, and research and will proceed with these values firmly in mind in this and all matters.
If you have questions please contact Dave Pinton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EDITOR’S NOTE (Feb 14): The BC LRB published the decision on this matter to their public website today, Wednesday, February 14 and it can be accessed here.