Recently, it has started to feel as though unions all went to a training school which gave them a template to make production demands at the start of bargaining. Many unions are now sending out standard letters demanding the production of:
- job descriptions,
- oodles of financial information, and
- information about any initiatives that the employer is contemplating which might impact the bargaining unit during the life of the upcoming agreement.
A recent court decision made it clear, when quashing an arbitration decision, that a company need not disclose all contemplated initiatives. The jurisprudence was reaffirmed, stating that an employer is only required, when requested, to disclose plans that are “likely to be implemented” during the life of the next collective agreement and will have a significant impact on the bargaining unit.
A recent Alberta Labour Relations Board decision has addressed the other two areas.
The employer did not have job descriptions. The Board confirmed that the employer did not have to create them.
In respect of the request for financial information, the Board observed that “the Employer has never disputed the suggestion that its business is doing well and has never suggested to the Union that its proposals are motivated by any concern about the viability of its business. It has explained to the Union that its proposals are simply based on its desire to be as competitive as possible in a marketplace that may soon have more competition. We have no doubt it would be helpful to the Union to have the requested information – it wants to get the best deal possible for its members.” However, the Board decided that it was not an unfair labour practice to refuse to provide the information to the Union.
Employers with bargaining obligations will be seeing comprehensive requests in the future. These cases will be helpful in defending typical refusals to comply.