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Closure of a service at the Raglan mine: “anti-union” motivation, says the Tribunal

Lia Levesque, The Canadian Press

MONTREAL — Glencore Canada was motivated, among other things, by “anti-union considerations” in closing its security service at the Raglan mine in Nunavut and laying off the workers concerned, a court has ruled.

Consequently, the Administrative Labor Tribunal rules that Glencore Canada thus wanted to hinder union activities, by seeking in this way to put pressure on the union. The court also finds that Glencore Canada negotiated in bad faith with the union.

In its decision, the court does not however order the reinstatement of the workers concerned, as requested by the union, since the security service has indeed been closed. But it opens the door for workers to be compensated.

It was the Steelworkers’ union, affiliated with the FTQ, which had filed complaints of obstruction and bad faith bargaining against Glencore Canada, after the security service at the Raglan mine had been closed and its employees even licensed.

“The announcement of the closure of the service, on March 7, 2021, took place while the parties are in negotiations for the renewal of their first collective agreement”, relates the administrative judge Johanne Despatis. The Steelworkers union also represents mine workers there.

Although the employer maintained that the closure of the security service was a simple business decision, the Tribunal qualified this assertion. “The manner and timing of the decision in dispute are indeed indicative of concerns that cannot reasonably be described as strictly related to business considerations,” ruled the administrative judge.

The Administrative Labor Tribunal ruled in favor of the Steelworkers union on its complaints of obstruction and bad faith bargaining, ruling that “the preponderant evidence shows that the employer’s decision to abolish the service was not exempt anti-union considerations”.

Possible compensation

The court itself refers to the case of the closing of the Walmart in Jonquière, which went all the way to the Supreme Court in 2009, following complaints from the union. The Administrative Labor Tribunal recalls that a union can then “obtain restorative orders” for employees who have suffered the consequences of such a decision.

“A finding of unfair labor practice prohibited by ss. 12 to 14 gives rise to measures of a broader scope based on the general remedial provisions of the Code, of which all employees can benefit, including those who have not participated in union activities or who have even opposites to unionize, but who nevertheless suffered the repercussions of the unlawful closing of the store”, had ruled the Supreme Court of Canada.

So the court declares “that the employer obstructed the activities of the union and its members” and that he “thus contravened articles 12 and 14 of the Labor Code”. He also states that Glencore Canada “breached its obligation to negotiate diligently and in good faith and thus contravened section 53 of the Labor Code”.

He rejects the request for reinstatement of the dismissed workers, formulated by the Steelworkers, since he cannot do so, the service having indeed been closed. However, it “reserves its jurisdiction to determine other remedial measures” towards the workers concerned.