The BC Labour Relations Board has ordered an employer to provide the union representing its employees with a list of all bargaining unit employees, including home addresses and telephone numbers. The union claimed that it required this information in order to discharge its obligation to represent the members of the bargaining unit. The employer refused to provide the requested information without the employees’ consent on the basis of privacy concerns. In addition, the employer argued that the union could obtain the information from membership application forms or from shop stewards. The collective agreement did not require the employer to furnish the union with the requested information. The union argued that the employer’s refusal constituted interference with the administration of a trade union contrary to section 6(1) of the Labour Relations Code.
The Board defined the issue as whether an employer was in violation of the Code if it refused to provide an employee list, including addresses and phone numbers, in circumstances where (i) it could provide such a list with little or no effort or expense; (ii) it would cause the union more effort and expense to obtain the information by other means; and (iii) protecting employees’ privacy is the only reason the employer gives for refusing the union’s request.
The Board held that section 6(1) of the Code prohibits employers not only from interfering with the administration of a trade union, but also from interfering with representation of employees by a trade union. As a result, if an employer refuses, without valid business reasons, to provide a trade union with information the union requires to fulfill its statutory obligations to represent bargaining unit members, the employer interferes with the representation of those employees contrary to the Code.
This case is significant in that it clarifies a private sector employer’s obligation to provide employee addresses and telephone numbers to the union representing the employees where the employer has no sound business reason for refusing the union’s request. The decision does not address the obligations of “public bodies” as defined under the BC Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (“FOIPPA”). An individual’s name, address and telephone number constitute “personal information” under the FOIPPA, which obliges public bodies to refuse to disclose such personal information in certain circumstances. The question of whether a public body’s refusal to provide employee personal information to a union on request would amount to a violation of Section 6(1) of the Code remains open.
P.Sun’s Enterprises (Vancouver) Ltd. (Hotel Grand Pacific) and National Automobile, Aerospace, Transportation and General Workers Union of Canada (CAW-Canada), Local 114, BCLRB No. B301/2003 (September 18, 2003)