How the Alberta Labour Relations Board handled the Lakeside crash

A look at the decision by the board in the high-profile incident where a union president’s vehicle was allegedly forced off the road in a ‘reckless’ pursuit by company executives

When Doug O’Halloran, president of Local 401 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, was involved in a car accident on Oct. 14, 2005, a lot of eyebrows were raised.

That’s because O’Halloran said he was being chased by company executives who forced him off the road. It was all part of a nasty labour dispute involving the UFCW and Lakeside Feeders Ltd. in Brooks, Alta., a division of U.S.-based Tyson Foods, that started on Oct. 12 and ended in early November when a contract was ratified.

“Not only did they put my life in danger, their lives in danger, but the lives of innocent Albertans who were on the road that night,” said O'Halloran in a UFCW press release shortly after the accident. “No one will convince me that this was anything other than a company sending a strong message to the union. A lot of picketers are now thinking, if they'll do this to the union president, what will they do to us? They're frightened.”

Six company officials were charged by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police with offences ranging from mischief to dangerous driving to criminal negligence causing bodily harm in connection with the accident, according to published reports. O’Halloran was also later charged by the Mounties with dangerous driving, according to the Canadian Press.

The union filed a complaint with the Alberta Labour Relations Board, which made a number of rulings as a result.

Pursuit leads to crash

The board said there was direct evidence that on Friday, Oct. 14, at about 6 p.m., Andy Crocker, a senior Lakeside manager, deliberately pursued a vehicle driven by O’Halloran on the Duchess Highway, east of the Lakeside plant.

The board said there was also circumstantial evidence that Carey Kopp, another senior manager, was also involved in the pursuit of O’Halloran.

“Portions of the pursuit were reckless, putting the lives of O’Halloran and other drivers on the road in danger,” said the board. “The pursuit ended when O’Halloran’s vehicle was forced off the road, resulting in injuries to O’Halloran.”

At the time of the accident, the board said Kopp and Crocker were carrying out instructions to follow O’Halloran from a distance so that he could be served with a notice of motion and affidavit for civil contempt proceedings. It was in carrying out this employer-directed activity that the incident took place, the board said.

The board said the employer, Kopp and Crocker engaged in “dispute-related misconduct” contrary to s. 154 of Alberta’s Labour Relations Code as a result of the careless and dangerous pursuit of O’Halloran.

The board said there was insufficient evidence to find a breach of the code against other Lakeside employees resulting from this incident.

The board’s order

The board made the following directives under s. 18 of the code:

It said the employer, Kopp and Crocker shall “immediately cease and desist and refrain from engaging in dispute-related misconduct.”

In addition, the board said Kopp and Crocker shall not:

•have contact with persons engaged in picketing in relation to this labour dispute;

•have contact with union officials or union employees except through legal counsel;

•operate any vehicle within 200 metres of any picket line established in relation to this dispute;

•be within 200 metres of the picket line except for the purpose of attending work and, once at work, they shall not engage in any conduct that is aimed at provoking, intimidating or inciting persons engaged in picketing;

•attend any other places where picketers, union officers or union employees are known to gather; and

•in the event they are on the employer’s bargaining committee, be physically present for any bargaining sessions involving the union.

The board also ordered Lakeside to post a copy of its order in the plant in a manner where it will come to the attention of all management personnel.

For more information see:

U.F.C.W., Local 401 v Lakeside Feeders Ltd., 2005 CarswellAlta 1572 (Alta. L.R.B.)

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