NEW WESTMINSTER – The BC Labour Relations Board has derailed Southern Railway (SRY) from circumventing the provincial labour code. The U.S.-owned railway walked away from contract talks and locked out its 126 CUPE Local 7000 workers in January.
The LRB has now ruled that Southern unlawfully used replacement workers (scabs) when they used A&B Rail to replace switch ties on Annacis Island. Not only has Southern been ordered to cease and desist using private contractors to do union work, they have also been ordered to pay CUPE $5,000 in damages.
The awarding of damages is unusual. CUPE National Legal Representative Martina Boyd explains that “the Board recognized that the employer’s unlawful use of A&B Rail to do bargaining unit work diminished the union’s bargaining power and prolonged the lockout. Damages are not often awarded in replacement worker applications.”
CUPE will be appearing before the LRB next week to seek permission to picket A&B Rail for assisting SRY to do bargaining unit work during the lockout.
CUPE local 7000 president Bill Magri says the decisions are a vindication of the CUPE workers, and a condemnation of the tack Southern has taken. “It would be better for all of us – for the railway, the workers, the customers and the public - if Southern would spend more time at the bargaining table and less at the Labour Board.”