No amend­ment needed to Labour Re­la­tions Act: min­is­ter writes in let­ter

The Labradorian - - FRONT PAGE - BY GLENN WHIFFEN

A for­mer union lo­cal pres­i­dent who had asked the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment to amend the Labour Re­la­tions Act to pre­vent un­fair takeovers of union lo­cals by their in­ter­na­tional bod­ies is dis­ap­pointed by the re­sponse he got.

John Fla­herty, for­mer pres­i­dent and busi­ness man­ager of the In­ter­na­tional Union of Op­er­at­ing En­gi­neers, Lo­cal 904, was ousted from his po­si­tion on March 20 by the union’s in­ter­na­tional gen­eral pres­i­dent in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. The in­ter­na­tional of­fice then seized con­trol of the as­sets of Lo­cal 904, worth an es­ti­mated $253 mil­lion — $53 mil­lion in bank ac­counts and in­vest­ments and $200 mil­lion in its pen­sion fund, he said.

Fla­herty wrote let­ters to Premier Dwight Ball and De­part­ment of Ad­vanced Ed­u­ca­tion, Skills and Labour Min­is­ter Al Hawkins ask­ing them to look at bet­ter leg­isla­tive pro­tec­tion for union lo­cals in the prov­ince.

“Lo­cal 904 was placed un­der su­per­vi­sion based on fac­tu­ally in­cor­rect in­for­ma­tion and is now con­trolled by In­ter­na­tional,” Fla­herty told the gov­ern­ment. “(Nei­ther) Lo­cal 904, its elected of­fi­cers, nor the mem­ber­ship were pro­vided a fair and un­bi­ased hear­ing.”

Hawkins’ de­part­ment agreed to look into the is­sue.

A let­ter sent to Fla­herty by Hawkins stated: “I took the op­por­tu­nity to per­son­ally re­view the in­for­ma­tion you pro­vided and re­quested my of­fi­cials to con­duct a ju­ris­dic­tional re­view. Upon com­ple­tion of the re­view, I was briefed on the re­sults. I have given care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion to the in­for­ma­tion you pro­vided, and the re­sults of the ju­ris­dic­tional analysis, and wish to ad­vise that I am sat­is­fied with the cur­rent leg­is­la­tion and will not be seek­ing amend­ments to the Labour Re­la­tions Act.”

Lo­cal 904 rep­re­sents about 2,300 mem­bers in New­found­land and Labrador, in­clud­ing heavy equip­ment op­er­a­tors, mo­bile and crane op­er­a­tors, me­chan­ics and cler­i­cal work­ers.

Doc­u­ments re­ceived by The Tele­gram state that Fla­herty was elected pres­i­dent and busi­ness man­ager by the lo­cal union mem­ber­ship in July 2016. On March 20 of this year, the lo­cal was placed un­der emer­gency su­per­vi­sion. Among the rea­sons cited were fi­nan­cial mal­prac­tice and po­lit­i­cal in-fight­ing.

Fla­herty was fired, as well as the lo­cal’s ex­ec­u­tive as­sis­tant/ of­fice man­ager, two busi­ness agents and the lo­cal’s ex­ec­u­tive board pend­ing the out­come of a hear­ing to de­ter­mine whether full su­per­vi­sion of Lo­cal 904 was war­ranted.

A three-mem­ber hear­ing panel later rec­om­mended that su­per­vi­sion be main­tained. Fla­herty re­futes the rea­sons pro­vided by the in­ter­na­tional and says doc­u­ments the lo­cal has com­piled tell the real story.

He says a fair, in­de­pen­dent hear­ing by the prov­ince’s Labour Re­la­tions Board would have come to the same con­clu­sion, but when he con­tacted the board, he was told there was noth­ing the board could do. That, he said, needs to change.

“There is cur­rently no process for a lo­cal union, its of­fi­cers or its mem­ber­ship to ac­cess a fair and un­bi­ased hear­ing in the event the in­ter­na­tional de­cides to im­pose su­per­vi­sion upon a lo­cal,” Fla­herty said.

“The gen­eral pres­i­dent of the par­ent union has ab­so­lute con­trol over all of the lo­cal’s fi­nances, as­sets, con­tracts and bar­gain­ing au­thor­ity. It has con­trol of the dis­patch and fil­ters what in­for­ma­tion, if any, is given to the mem­ber­ship.”

Fla­herty says the other 15 trade unions in the prov­ince have built up as­sets of sim­i­lar value and are also vul­ner­a­ble to takeover and seizure of these as­sets by their par­ent unions. He said leg­isla­tive changes are needed to en­sure the as­sets re­main in the prov­ince and un­der the con­trol of the lo­cal.

He said many work­ers are sup­port­ing him in his ef­forts to push for the leg­isla­tive amend­ment, and it’s too im­por­tant of an is­sue to let die. He has re­quested a meet­ing with Hawkins to dis­cuss the mat­ter and to learn the de­tails about why the min­is­ter be­lieves there is no need for an amend­ment.

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