Employees’ home addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses are personal information, and their collection, retention and disclosure by the employer are protected by law[1].

The thrust of jurisprudence on the application of privacy laws[2] and labour laws[3] is that if the employer is in possession of that information, it must give the certified union the names, home addresses and personal phone numbers of the employees in the bargaining unit.

In ruling that the employer cannot refuse such disclosure, tribunals have relied on three principles: the union’s duty of fair representation, the employer’s duty to bargain in good faith, and the employer’s duty not to interfere in the union’s representation of the employees.

The employer’s duty to disclose the information applies both during collective bargaining and during the term of the collective agreement. It applies even in the absence of a specific provision in the collective agreement, and does not require employee consent.

This jurisprudence was recently confirmed in a declaratory opinion by the Canada Industrial Relations Board (hereinafter the "C.I.R.B.")[4].

However, the C.I.R.B. has laid down two restrictions: (1) the employer can refuse to disclose the contact information if the employee provided the information on the basis of an express guarantee of confidentiality, and (2) the union’s use of the information is limited to the purposes for which it was obtained, that is, to deal with employment-related matters and discharge its legal obligations.

In this case, the employer argued that the information it had to communicate to the union was stipulated in the collective agreement and the C.I.R.B. could not order it to communicate any additional information, for that would exceed what the parties had agreed on. The C.I.R.B. found that, by signing the collective agreement, the union had not waived its right to obtain the personal phone numbers of the bargaining unit members. A provision in the collective agreement cannot restrict the certified bargaining agent’s right to obtain basic contact information for the employees collected by the employer in the framework of the employment relationship. Thus, the union is entitled to obtain the personal phone numbers of the employees in the bargaining unit, even if they are not union members.

As for the union’s request for the employees’ personal e-mail addresses, the C.I.R.B. found that the employer did not have that information. It therefore ruled that the union could not demand that the employer collect the employees’ e-mail addresses to give them to the union. Accordingly, the employer has no obligation to provide the union with the personal e-mail addresses of the employees in the bargaining unit unless it obtains them for its own purposes.