Unionized staff can’t be offered voluntary severance packages without the consent of their union, the Canadian Industrial Relations Board has ruled.
The board ruled Bell Canada interfered with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada’s (CEP) representation of its members by offering packages directly to employees.
The CEP hailed the ruling as a victory because it explicitly states that voluntary enhanced separation schemes are “terms and conditions” of employment that must be negotiated with a trade union.
The union filed an unfair labour practice charge against Bell nearly two years ago when the company offered severance packages to some telephone technicians without the union’s consent.
“This ruling ensures that workers will have the union’s strength behind them when they decide to take their retirement,” said Joel Carr, CEP Ontario administrative vice-president. “Retirement packages cannot be forced upon workers by a manipulative employer.”
CEP’s Quebec vice-president, Michel Ouiment, said the decision “could have widespread implications for other employers seeking to exploit the vulnerability of employees by unilaterally imposing the terms and conditions of a voluntary retirement program. Employers must now negotiate such ‘buy-outs’ with the union.”