AUPE to appeal LRB ruling

Alberta's biggest union says it will appeal a hefty fine handed down by the Labour Relations Board.

The board has suspended the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees from collecting union dues for two months because of a strike by 10,000 health-care workers in May 2000. The move would cost AUPE nearly $500,000 and comes on top of a $400,000 fine levied by the courts for contempt.

Dan MacLennan, AUPE president, says the board's decision is unfair.

"Double jeopardy. We went to the courts, we stood up in the courts and faced the fine, the largest fine in history," says MacLennan. "If you kill a worker the fine is like $8,000 to $10,000 dollars for companies that kill a worker.

"We went to court, we got a $400,000 fine even with mitigating circumstances like offering essential services. I think it should have been left in the hands of the courts."

The president of the Alberta Federation of Labour is also critical of the LRB decision. Audrey Cormack says health workers had no choice but to go on strike to make their point.

"Workers need to know that they are getting fair return for their labour," she says. "When you go to the bargaining table and you try to bargain a fair settlement and the employer refuses to and not give a fair settlement, sometimes workers are just pushed against the wall, so, what other choice do workers have?"

Cormack says the AFL will also appeal the ruling on constitutional grounds in May.

But MacLennan says that if the fine stands, the Canadian Auto Workers union has offered to provide an interest-free, one-million dollar loan to AUPE.

Meanwhile, the provincial health authorities say they are happy with the decision. They say it shows unions that illegal strikes carry serious consequences.