A Nova Scotia government tribunal has forced a Halifax businessman to join a union in order to work for the company he owns, CBC News has learned.
The ruling ends a year-long case over the unionization of Fougere Young Masonry & Construction, a two-man company based in Hammonds Plains, N.S.
"I'm shocked and disappointed," said co-owner Kevin Fougere.
He became a target because he once ran a larger, unionized masonry company, Diadem LP, that became insolvent and went out of business in 2010.
When Fougere started again in March 2012, two unions — the Labourers International and the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers — went to the N.S. labour board claiming Fougere's new company was a continuation of the old one and should be a union shop as well.
Fougere argued his two-man operation was too small to be unionized and could not afford the overhead and paperwork of a union collective agreement.
'Successor rights' at stake
Last month the unions won, largely because the labour board found Fougere was the so-called "key man" in both companies.
"There has been a transfer of his skill, experience, know-how, reputation and industry contacts without which Fougere Young could not operate. The jobs Fougere Young bids on are jobs that Diadem LP would likely have bid on," the labour board wrote on Aug. 23.
Labourers International business manager Franco Callegari said the principle of “successor rights” was at stake.
"We felt Mr. Fougere was in the unionized construction sector prior to this. Him opening the new company didn't change that," Callegari told CBC News.
The ruling forced Fougere and his business partner to join a union to work for their own company.
Fougere said insult was added to injury when he went to the union hall looking for extra help.
"I was told there's no employees available for me to hire. So I'm left in the position that I have no employees and no legal route of hiring employees. I can't use the bricklayer that was seldom used before because he's not in a union," Fougere said.
"I'm in a bad spot."
The unions did agree to waive the 18 months of retroactive back pay they were awarded for the two or three non-union employees Foguere occasionally hired.
Fougere said he now regrets ever challenging the unions before Nova Scotia's labour board.
"I was dead in the water before I even started," he said.