UFCW loses application for intervenor status in BCGEU union drive at casino

A British Columbia court has denied a trade union’s application for intervention in a dispute between another union and a casino, ruling its interest in the outcome is sufficiently represented by the union already taking part in the proceedings.

Gateway Casinos operates a casino in Burnaby, B.C., on a property which includes a parking lot which is used by employees and customers and is also available to the general public. The British Columbia Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) is a trade union representing 60,000 public and private sector employees, including those at four other casinos in British Columbia. BCGEU is attempting to organize Gateway’s employees.

For several days beginning on Aug. 8, 2006, BCGEU representatives spoke with and handed out literature to employees throughout each day on two levels of the parking lot. Gateway saw this as unauthorized trespassing on casino property and filed an action against the BCGEU. In the original judgment, handed down on Aug. 21, 2006, Gateway’s action was dismissed on the basis that s. 66 of the Labour Relations Code allowed “petty trespass” on land with public access as long as it took place outside “an employer’s workplace.”

Gateway appealed, claiming the union’s actions constituted more than just “petty trespass” and, because some employees perform part of their jobs in the parking lot, the area should be considered Gateway’s workplace.

When the appeal was filed, the United Food and Commercial Workers’ International Union (UFCW), Local 1518, applied to intervene on behalf of the BCGEU. UFCW represents 27,000 workers in British Columbia, mostly in the private sector, and it felt it had a direct interest in the outcome of the appeal. The potential for setting a precedent preventing the use of employers’ parking lots by unions “to convey information during labour disputes and to organize employees whose work is carried out in such parking lots” as well as how the issues of association and free speech in relation to the Labour Relations Code would be handled were of great concern to the UFCW. The union also argued it had more experience with the activities in question than BCGEU and it could bring “a fresh and different perspective to the issues.”

The B.C. Court of Appeal examined BCGEU’s outline for submissions in the case and found its arguments and experience were sufficient to serve the interests of all unions affected by the decision. He felt that bringing the UFCW into the appeal to present its take on the case would not add anything new to the hearing.

Justice Smith agreed with Gateway’s assertion that the food and commercial union did not have a direct interest nor had a role to play in the proceedings.

“That it may be affected by the outcome of the appeal is not sufficient in itself to justify its intervention,” Justice Smith said. “In this respect, it is no different position than all other unions in British Columbia.” See Gateway Casinos LP v. B.C.G.E.U., 2007 CarswellBC 152, 2007 BCCA 48 (B.C. C.A.).

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