Secret recordings and not-so-secret ballots: Canora Tim Hortons' union bid hits bump

After hearing of employees secretly wearing recording devices to record management comments, and holding a vote that was not a secret ballot, the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board has hit pause on a bid by employees at a Canora Tim Hortons to form a union.

Labour board cites 'unfair labour practices' and calls for new vote

The Tim Hortons in Canora was the first in the province to receive certification for a union. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

The Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board has hit pause on a bid by employees at the Tim Hortons in Canora to form a union.

The Tim Hortons location was the first in the province to achieve union certification after a vote, but the employer, Amenity Health Care LP, argued that an "unfair labour practice" was involved and appealed.

The board heard testimony about employees gathering to vote together, secretly wearing recording devices to record management comments, and holding a vote that was not a secret ballot.

Amenity argued that to let the certification vote stand "would reward bad (and illegal) behaviour," and the board agreed in a 2-1 decision announced July 20. 

The sole dissenting vote was made by the member for the employees.

Employees provide testimony

One employee testified some of the employees wore concealed recording devices in an attempt to capture management comments against the union in the lead-up to the vote, which she felt was an invasion of privacy.

She further testified that when employees received their ballots, they were told to hold on to them until they could all be together.

The Saskatchewan Labour Arbitration Board has decided a new union certification vote must be held at the Tim Hortons in Canora. (Google Maps)

At a July 7, 2017 meeting, the employees marked their ballots together at a restaurant.

The employee who testified said that everyone could see how the others had voted.

"She said she did not object to the process because she was again concerned that if she strayed from the expected line that the others would make her life a living hell," the board wrote in its decision.

Others testified about secret recordings and the vote, which was described as an open process.

Workers United Canada Council argued that the employees were not intimidating or coercing each other, and that no one was deprived of the right to a secret ballot vote. It argued the employees were exercising their rights to associate and communicate with one another.

Board calls for new vote

The board said it was clear from the testimony that at least one, and likely two, people were inside organizers for the union, there to rally support and be on-the-ground organizers for the campaign.

It declared the union and the two employees had committed an unfair labour practice by not promoting and encouraging a secret ballot vote.

The only way to fix the issue is to allow the employees to have a proper secret ballot vote, the board said, as it cancelled the union's former certification order.

Since there had been a lot of turnover in staff since the union filed its first application, the board has appointed an agent to determine which employees can vote, and to conduct the vote.