The recent decision of the Ontario Labour Relations Board (“Board”) in UNITE HERE Local 75 v Richtree Markets Inc. 2014 CanLII 647 demonstrates that an address contained in the bargaining unit description of a collective agreement’s recognition clause may not restrict the bargaining rights to that specific location. Instead, the address may be viewed by the Board as only a description of the location, with arguably broader union rights being in place.

background facts

Richtree Markets Inc. (“Richtree”) operated a restaurant located in Toronto Eaton Centre. The UNITE HERE Local 75 Union (the “Union”) had bargaining rights at the restaurant and a collective agreement which originally stated that they applied to Richtree at the Eaton Centre, Toronto. However, in 2006 the bargaining unit description and recognition clause were amended. The amended bargaining unit description added an address to the Richtree location stating that the agreement applied between the Union and Richtree at “Eaton Centre: 220 Yonge Street, Toronto”. Similarly, the recognition clause was amended to state that it  was for all employees of Richtree located at “the Eaton Centre, 220 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON”. Neither the Union nor Richtree produced witnesses who were involved in the 2006 negotiations to help explain the purpose of the amendments.

In January 2013, Richtree closed the restaurant and in September of the same year opened a new restaurant in Toronto Eaton Centre located about 50 metres away from the original location. The new restaurant’s address differs from the former one as it is located at 14 Queen Street West. The new address was obtained by the mall operator at the request of Richtree.

Richtree claimed that the bargaining rights did not continue to the new location because the collective agreement was confined to “220 Yonge Street”. The Union argued that its bargaining rights applied, without limitation, to the Eaton Centre and the address was only placed in the bargaining unit description to distinguish it from other locations.

Labour Board: bargaining rights continued

The Board examined the relevant evidence and concluded that the address reference in the collective agreement was not meant to limit the application of the Union’s bargaining rights at the Eaton Centre but was instead included to help describe the property. The Board reached its decision on the basis that:

  1. Both the Eaton Centre and its owner Cadillac Fairview publicly represented on their websites that the Eaton Centre is located at 220 Yonge Street;
  2. Restaurants that were located in Richtree’s new location had in the past used 220 Yonge Street as their address; and
  3. The business card of the General Manager of the former Richtree restaurant listed the address as “220 Yonge Street, Eaton Centre” helping the Board to draw an inference that the address was used to describe the Eaton Centre.

The Board also noted that the address of the new location, 14 Queen Street West, only seemed to exist “on a piece of paper” because at the time of the decision it could not be accessed from the street nor were there any signs.

key takeaway for employers

This case provides helpful guidance about the scope of bargaining rights in the event of a change of location of a business. Should employers want to limit the bargaining rights to a particular address, the collective agreement must specifically state that the bargaining rights are limited, and the evidence must support this. Adding an address beside the name of the location does not necessarily clearly establish that the bargaining rights are restricted to that location and the Board may find that the address is only a description of the location.

Jared Grossman