In an October 26, 2004, reconsideration decision, the British Columbia Labour Relations Board has provided guidance on how it will respond to future applications to restrict picketing activities at the University of British Columbia. This decision will be of interest to unionized employers operating large worksites which are open to the public.
In British Columbia, the Labour Relations Code creates a two-pronged system for regulating picketing activity. The Labour Relations Board is responsible for regulating the time and place of picketing, while the Courts regulate the manner of picketing where there is a complaint of tortious or illegal activity.
Under section 65(3) of the Code, union members have the right to picket at any location where a member of the bargaining unit performs work under the control or direction of the employer.
In March of 2003, two unions commenced legal strike action against the University of British Columbia (“UBC”) and began picketing at various sites on the UBC campus. UBC applied under Sections 65(3) and 67 of the Code to restrain picketing by the unions.
On the initial application, reported at BCLRB No. 409/2003, UBC took the position that section 65(3) of the Code permitted picketing at or near, but not on its property. It sought orders declaring that the unions could not picket on its property, but only at or near the entrances to it.
In its initial decision, the Board concluded that UBC’s complaint was an attempt to regulate trespass, relief which the Board did not have jurisdiction to grant. On this basis, the Board dismissed UBC’s complaint.
On reconsideration. a three member panel of the Board concluded that the Board did have jurisdiction to consider and rule on the locations where picketing could take place. While the Reconsideration Panel did not need to decide the case on its merits because the labour dispute had ended, it did state that future determinations regarding picketing locations in labour disputes between the parties would have to include consideration of where the employees actually work, the public nature of the employer, and the need for public access to the campus, including its residences and amenities.