Nova Scotia

Union challenges 2 small businesses at labour board

The Nova Scotia labour board will hold hearings next week into a dispute involving two energy consultants and one of the province's biggest trade unions.

IBEW argues businesses broke the rules by not unionizing

The Nova Scotia labour board will hold hearings next week into a dispute involving two energy consultants and one of the province's biggest trade unions.

At issue is whether Smart Energy Service Inc. and Smart Environmental Services Inc. should have to unionize their shops.

In the 1990s, Derek Cottam had an electrical contracting company which was unionized by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

He shut it down, and eventually started up an energy efficiency consultancy called Future Marketing Limited. Now, the union is taking him to the labour board, arguing that any successor company must be a union shop.

"Unions have a place and a time, but this is not the place and the time," he said.

Alex Watters is also being brought before the labour board by the IBEW. The company he formed, Advanced Lighting, took over the work once done by Cottam.

"They are saying that I am a successor company to a union firm," Watters said. "A union firm I knew nothing about and all of a sudden I find myself in a position where my livelihood goes up in smoke if they go after me with their unlimited funds. I can't even afford a lawyer."

The IBEW declined a request for an interview.

"For us this is a routine case," Tim Swinamer of Local 625 said. "One company succeeding another company."

But Watters said it's anything but routine for him.

"The whole thing is so lopsided, what they are doing is taking away my right to work," he said.

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