Legal News

BCLRB dismisses common employer application against Farmer Construction

Farmer Construction has craft certifications with several unions that are members of the Building Trades. In 2004, the BC Labour Relations Board issued its decision (BCLRB No. B217/2004), involving a well-publicized application by Farmer to consolidate its multi-craft bargaining units into a single unit represented by the Carpenters’ union. The Board dismissed the application without holding a hearing, on the ground that the facts asserted in Farmer’s written submissions were lacking in substance and – even if they were proven at the hearing to be true – would not support the granting of the relief sought. This decision was upheld on reconsideration in BCLRB No. B238/2004.

At around the same time, one of Farmer’s unions, the Construction and Specialized Workers’ Union Local 1611, applied to the Board alleging that Farmer and a company named Pye Construction were a common employer. In a recent decision (BCLRB No. B93/2005 ), the Board dismissed the application on the ground that although Farmer and Pye were construction companies that operated under common control or direction, Local 1611 had not established a labour relations purpose for a common employer declaration. Key factors that led the Board to reach this conclusion were as follows:

    1. Pye was a substantial company that had been in existence for 18 years before it was purchased by BLB, Farmer’s parent company;

    2. BLB had entered into a management agreement with Wayne Pye, pursuant to which he continued to run Pye’s day-to-day operations;

    3. Immediately before the acquisition, Pye had been certified by CLAC, and a collective agreement was in effect; and

    4. There was no evidence that Pye’s work had expended at Farmer’s expense. Indeed, whenever they had competed on jobs, the work had been awarded to Farmer.

The Board found that the Union was seeking to expand its bargaining rights, not preserve them, and commented that it would be contrary to the purposes of the Code to impose Local 1611’s certification on Pye employees who had freely chosen CLAC as their representative. The Board noted that there is a presumption against a mix of a craft bargaining unit structure and a wall to wall bargaining unit structure within the same employer. As a result, the union’s common employer application was dismissed.

Farmer Construction, BCLRB No. B93/2005, April 8, 2005