B.C. hotel found guilty of labour code breach

Employer threatened, intimidated picketing workers, finds labour board

B.C. hotel found guilty of labour code breach

Radisson Blu Vancouver Airport Hotel and, in particular, majority owner Sukhminder Rai breached the labour code by intimidating and threatening strikers on the picket line, according to a recent decision by the BC Labour Relations Board.

This happened on multiple occasions, according to Gurleen Sahota, vice chair of the board, on the case involving UNITE HERE Local 40.

In one instance, Ravinder Nijjer, who worked in the employer’s maintenance department, said Rai told him: “The day after I settle, you know, I can fire you.” 

While Rai did not explicitly tell Nijjer to discontinue his union membership, his comment, “in threatening dismissal while Nijjer was on the picket line, has the impact of exerting pressure on Nijjer to this effect,” said Sahota in the decision.

Late in 2023, the Saskatchewan Court of King’s Bench denied an employer’s application for an injunction against a union’s picketing and distribution of leaflets on the edges of its property during a lockout.

Intimidation of kitchen workers

Rai also told the strikers that he was getting rid of the hotel kitchen and there would not be jobs for striking kitchen staff. This is an intimidation tactic, said Sahota.

“In effect, the manner and frequency in which the comments were made leads me to find Rai repeatedly implied that the employees’ picketing and ongoing support of the Union was futile because the employees would not have their jobs to return to. In this context, I find the comments amount to intimidation of these employees. The comments could have the impact of compelling these employees to discontinue their support of, and membership in, the union,” he said. 

“Accordingly, I find Rai’s comments to the picketers about the kitchen being closed are a breach of Section 6(3)(d) of the Code.”

Sahota also referenced Rai’s offer for one striking worker to play a plastic vuvuzela, a loud horn used by strikers on the picket line, at his daughter’s wedding.

“I do not accept that Rai meant this offer as a compliment. It is not believable that he would sincerely want Thandi to play a plastic horn at his daughter’s wedding,” said the vice chair.

“I have also considered Thandi’s testimony regarding the negative cultural connotations of playing a horn at a wedding, and in addition, when the horn was played during the hearing, it did not produce a pleasant sound. I accept that this comment was meant to intimidate Thandi.”

Union cites ‘legal, moral victory’ for strikers

UNITE HERE Local 40 welcomed the board’s decision.

“This decision is a legal and moral victory. The strikers have courageously refused to let the owner get away with attempts to threaten, intimidate, and undermine their union,” said Zailda Chan, president of UNITE HERE Local 40.

“It is not easy to stand up and fight for justice, but Radisson Blu Vancouver Airport strikers have resolved to fight for the respect they deserve.  This should send a strong message to any employer who thinks they are above the law.”

The union commenced a lawful strike on May 3, 2021, which is still ongoing as of publishing of this story.

Ottawa and some provinces, including Manitoba and British Columbia, have proposed anti-scab labour bills.

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