A labour relations board ruling may open the door for an anticipated Canadian Taxpayers Federation-funded legal action against the Hospital Employees' Union, Public Eye has learned. In a decision, which was handed down on February 15, board associate chair Michael Fleming ruled the union breached part five of the labour relations code when they mounted a political protest against the provincial government last year, essentially organizing what amounted to an illegal strike.
That ruling was sought by five men whose legal fees are being covered by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. The men allege the political protest delayed their medical treatment, causing them "frustration, anxiety and emotional upset" and, in some cases, "economic loss due to an inability to work between April 30 and the re-scheduled procedure, or the need to take additional time off work for the re-scheduled procedure" - allegations denied by the union. But, in order for the men to seek damages in court, the labour relations board needed to declare the strike illegal.
The men were represented at the board by Bruce Hallsor of Crease, Harman and Company fame. Mr. Hallsor is the past president of the Victoria-Beacon Hill provincial Liberal constituency association, vice-president of the federal Conservative Saanich-Gulf Islands constituency association and a former Canadian Alliance election candidate.
During the union's strike, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation ran a series of radio advertisements "aimed at providing information on the HEU's contract and inviting patients to 'strike back' by contacting the CTF and organizing a class action suit," according to a letter soliciting donations for the legal action (which is expected to cost as much as $100,000).
The federation's British Columbia executive director Sara MacIntyre says a lawsuit against the union has not yet been filed but submissions are being prepared. But the federation might have to wait a while yet before filing those submissions.
In an interview with Public Eye, hospital employees' communications director Mike Old said that, "We believe this is a seriously flawed (labour relations board) decision. And our legal council says we have excellent grounds on which to appeal. And we will."