- employer methods were "...coercive or intimidating"
The BC Liberal government stormed to power in 2001. The new government promised to listen and not only be open and accountable but the "most" open and accountable government in Canada.
In 2002 the Government made sweeping changes to the Labour code in the province, in addition toseparatee pieces of legislation that allowed government and its contractors to rip up health care workers and teachers contracts.
It became harder for workers to join a union. Employers emboldened by new laws crossed the line, denying workers their rights, limited as they were..
On many fronts the government of the day did not listen and was not open and accountable. One area where the government took action without consultations was with the labour code changes, likely the most onesided changes made by a government in Canada in decades.
The new labour board was crafted largely in secret providing employers with many new tools to keep unions out. What was astoundingg about the changes was the government's overtly one-sided approach, which differed significantly from the previous NDP government's approach.
When the NDP were elected in 1991, they brought in changes after extensive consultations with employers and workers. The changes brought BC to standards set elsewhere in Canada. Still those changes were seen as pro-labour in light of the times. BC after all had in place a government that for 20 years had merely tolerated unions and changes to the Labour code tended to be employer sought initiatives. Employers were right when they said the changes favoured workers and unions.
In the new pro-employer atmosphere created by the BC Liberal government, employers started to flex the new muscles they had and then some.
Company went too far ...
Friday, July 8, 2005 a reconsideration panel headed by LRB chair Brent Mullin BCGEU media release, the union's goal was to help about 1,000 RMH employees improve their working conditions and pay, which averaged about $10 an hour. The workers, many of whom were new Canadians who came from professional backgrounds,wanted to be treated with more dignity on the job. During that drive, RMH resorted to a U.S.-style campaign to thwart their employees' legal right to join a union.
The reconsideration panel heard that during the organizing effort of the union, the company was projecting high tech slide shows with strong and offensive anti-union messages on to different screens set up in the call centre for an entire week.
RMH Teleservices managers dimmed the lighting so the anti-union message was indelibly clear. The employer also handed out gifts to employees that prominently displayed anti union messages.
In a majority decision, the panel chaired by LRB chair Brent Mullin found that the slide shows amounted to "forced listening" and "were so prominent, persistent and impossible to miss" that it became "coercive or intimidating" employer communications. Similarly, the panel determined that the gifts given to employees were "improperly intrusive and persistent" and in violation of the labour code.
RMH operates at least 14 call centres through in the US, Canada, India, and the Philippines.
Now we wait for remedies ordered by the Reconsideration panel to be applied. It is vital that the company pay a price for their lack of respect for their employees rights and in Canada, even employers have to obey the law. That will depend however on the BC Liberal appointed Labour Board to act. I am not holding my breath.
Decision: B188/2005 July 8, 2005, RMH Teleservices International Inc. -and- B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union -and- B.C. Federation of Labour -and- Business Council of B.C. -and- Coalition of B.C. Businesses (Reconsideration of No. B345/2003 allowed in part)