Union access ‘moot’: court

Even if an issue was lively and contested in the recent past, courts will not hear litigation about it if it has become “moot” — “the situation in which an issue...exists no longer when the case comes before a tribunal” (Dictionary of Canadian Law).

A recent case on the labour-law front turned on “mootness” — where “a court may decline to decide a case which raises merely a hypothetical or abstract question.” The workers involved were members of the Christian Labour Association, and their collective agreements with Ledcor Industries and with Standard Electric were for a term of about three-and- a-half years, ending in June 2000.

The federal labour board ordered that the unions were entitled to solicit membership away from the Christian Labour Association at a Ledcor construction site, a diamond mine.

But construction was completed there in October 1998, and Ledcor never granted the unions access. At Ledcor’s and Standard’s request, the board agreed to reconsider its decision but had not done so at the time the employers appeared before the Federal Court of Appeal, asking the court to review the rival unions’ access order.

The unions argued that, because construction was complete, the issue was moot. Ledcor and Standard contended there were still workers on site doing maintenance and related work.

The court has unanimously sided with the unions. For all practical purposes, it has said, the access order was spent — which of course makes one wonder why Ledcor and Standard went to all that trouble and expense. Could it be that they, and the Christian Labour Association, expect further union raids at future sites?

For more information:

Ledcor Industries v. L.I.U.N.A., Loc. 92, F.C.A. files A-362-98 and A-363-98, Dec. 14/99.

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