WFN appeals arbitration decision in Pine Acres labour dispute

May 10, 2022 – WESTBANK: Westbank First Nation (WFN) is disputing the fairness of a Pine Acres Home (PAH) labour dispute with the British Columbia General Employees Union (BCGEU) following an arbitration decision that did not go in WFN’s favour.

The arbitrator recently ruled in favour of the BCGEU, stating that the more lucrative “layoff” provision applied. The layoff provision however is designed for a temporary layoff with an expected recall to work, while the “severance” provision contemplated in the Collective Bargaining Agreement is designed for final termination.

“WFN is arguing the closure of Pine Acres resulted in the termination, not the layoff, of our employees, and as such are exploring our appeal options in order to obtain the best result for our Membership,” says WFN Council. “Almost immediately, the BCGEU shut down negotiations, declined mediation, and forced WFN into arbitration. We welcome the opportunity to re-engage in respectful and productive negotiations as we believe our people deserve a fair hearing and outcome.”

The decision to close WFN’s long-term care facility was made on October 4, 2021 owing to a number of acute issues including staffing shortages due to the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirement implemented by the Province which compounded existing staffing shortages. In addition, most of the building’s structure, systems, and equipment were beyond their lifecycle and failing. Notice of its closure was provided to PAH employees on October 4, outlining their entitlements upon termination. Job fairs were held to assist employees in obtaining alternative employment with the vast majority receiving reasonable offers and securing employment while still working at PAH or immediately following its closure.

In addition to the termination provision of the collective bargaining agreement, which provided permanent union staff with 28 days notice plus 8 weeks under the BC Employment Standards Act, WFN paid a gratuitous 4 week lump sum amount to thank staff for their years of service.

As a result of the recent arbitration ruling, a portion of the severance for permanent unionized employees, represented by BCGEU, remains unresolved/unpaid. To date, WFN has paid out approximately $440,000 in severance to PAH permanent unionized employees and all PAH employees received a 3-week continuance of pay as well as a 30-day extension to their health and dental benefits.

Visit the WFN website for more information.

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For more information, please contact: E COMMUNICATIONS | T 250 769 4999