Vehicles line up to board B.C. Ferries sailing at Tsawwassen. (Black Press Media)

B.C. Supreme Court dismisses review around ferry workers’ right to strike

B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union collective agreement expires November 2020

A judicial review related to the B.C. ferry workers union’s right to strike has been dismissed by a B.C. Supreme Court judge.

In November, the B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union presented its case to Judge Grace Choi related to a 2016 arbitration decision, where it was determined that the union “contractually agreed not to engage in strike activity during negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.” British Columbia Ferry Services Inc. and B.C. Labour Relations Board were named as respondents.

The union’s current collective agreement is set to expire in November 2020 and a negotiation period begins August 2020. It previously said it was being unfairly denied access to the right to strike via a misreading of statutory obligations that people are held to under the labour relations code. Last November, Graeme Johnston, union provincial president, told the News Bulletin that the Supreme Court of Canada has stated that if the right to strike is to be removed, it has to be “done in the most express terms possible, [with] clear language, and it can’t be done by implication and in our case, what the arbitrator ruled and what the board upheld is the removal of our right to strike happened by implication.”

RELATED: B.C. ferry workers’ union fights for right to strike

In her judgment dated May 10, Choi said the judicial review was “not a rehearing of a case on its merits,” and that the reconsideration decision may be reviewed on “correctness or patent unreasonableness,” with the union claiming correctness and the other parties claiming patent unreasonableness, according to Choi.

She noted she had to consider whether the reconsideration decision was patently unreasonable. She said the board didn’t administer a “fulsome Charter values analysis,” but that was “not patently unreasonable.” The board knew that the topic was considered by the arbitrator and original panel, Choi’s judgment said.

“The board was able to determine which principles of law, including the fundamental right to freely associate, were germane and relevant to the decision it had to make within its narrow scope of review … The board concluded that the interest arbitration clause at issue is a legitimate dispute resolution mechanism consistent with the principles expressed and implied in the code,” said Choi.

In conclusion, Choi said she dismissed the union’s application because “nothing leaps out as patently unreasonable respecting the reconsideration panel’s review of the original decision.”

In an e-mail, Deborah Marshall, B.C. Ferries’ spokeswoman, said the corporation was pleased with the court’s decision, but had no further comment.

Johnston didn’t respond to a request for comment.



reporter@nanaimobulletin.com

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