Alberta Labour Relations Board reconsideration ruling overturned

Court calls Finning decision ‘patently unreasonable’
By Lorna Harris
||Last Updated: 01/09/2008

Alberta’s Court of Appeal has overturned a contentious reconsideration ruling by the province’s labour board which, the union argued, allowed union busting. The board’s decision had allowed heavy equipment distributor Finning International Inc. to fire many of its workers and replace their union, when it transferred its parts rebuilding work to a new company. The Court ruled that the board erred by not acknowledging a successorship relationship between the two companies.

The story began in mid-2004 when the Vancouver-based company announced it was going to close its Edmonton component rebuild centre and contract out the work to a new company, O.E.M. Remanufacturing Co. (OEM). As a result, close to 160 employees faced layoffs. In addition, their union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), was to be replaced by a local of the Christian Labour Association of Canada. At a subsequent Alberta Labour Relations Board hearing, the IAMAW argued that Finning was a common employer with OEM and that under successorship rules, the workers and their union should remain intact.

Although to outward appearances not much in the way of good will, employees, managers or equipment was transferred to the new company, that was not the whole picture. A closer analysis revealed Finning financed the costs of building the new facility to the tune of $87 million and also paid for the acquisitions that gave OEM its work. As well, an undated report admitted as evidence at the hearing stated that the company wanted a situation where there would be no union.