Two different panels of the BC Labour Relations Board have made findings in favour of a union’s covert video surveillance at the IKEA store in Richmond, BC.  The store has operated behind a picket line since May 13.

With over 300 unionized employees on the outside looking in, and only 27 who have decided to cross the picket line, most store operations have continued.  The kids’ ballroom is closed, and the 600 seat cafeteria isn’t serving up Swedish meatballs (or anything else), but otherwise the store is open and sales are being made.  That has made the union suspicious that IKEA is gettting work done in violation of the law against using replacement workers: - section 68 of the Labour Relations Code.

The union hired private investigators to covertly videotape activity inside the store.  It then sought to rely on still pictures taken from the video of certain individuals alleged to be working in violation of section 68.

Both panels rejected IKEA’s argument that the covert video surveillance was in violation of the Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection Act (“PIPA“)and therefore should not be admitted into evidence.  The panels, deciding the cases before them independently, reached simiilar conclusions for similar reasons.

The key privacy finding of both panels was that the covert video surveillance did not violate PIPA.  It fit within section 12(1)(c) which allows the collection of personal information without consent when seeking consent would compromise the investigation and when the surveillance is reasonably necessary for an investigation or proceeding.

While a loss for IKEA in its dispute, the decisions set a useful precedent for when an employer may need to carry out covert video surveillance.

The decisions can be found here and here.