OLRB takes on constitutional issues in approving LIUNA certification application

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LIUNA won certification at Ramkey Communications despite the company's claim it should operate under federal, rather than provincial, jurisdiction

The Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) has reported on a decision where a contractor disputed a certification application by the Labourers International Union of North America (LIUNA) because it asserted it was working on projects on federal, rather than provincial, jurisdiction.

The employer, Ramkey Communications Inc., provides “services to operations of telecommunications networks,” the OLRB reported.

Ramkey argued it fell within federal jurisdiction even though it neither owned nor had any interest in any telecommunications networks (nor did the networks have any ownership or interest in Ramkey). There was no dispute that the work at issue was construction work: overhead placement or underground excavation to support infrastructure (e.g., trenching, drilling, pneumatic piercing, cutting, duct proofing, power supply installation)

The OLRB  began its analysis confirming that labour relations are presumptively a matter of provincial jurisdiction. After an extensive survey of related and applicable court case law (Montcalm, Northern Telecom #1 and #2) and its own recent jurisprudence, the adjudicators held that, at best, Ramkey only “derivatively” comes into federal jurisdiction –

The network companies (Rogers, Cogeco and others) are content to contract this construction work to independent arm’s length companies like Ramkey and others – Ramkey had a host of its own customers, both federal and provincial – The Board concluded that building infrastructure, be it a pipeline, railroad or telecommunications, is still construction and therefore provincial.

LIUNA won the certification claim, as reported in the decision dated March 23.

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