Open Shops Fight Unions for Information

     VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) – A privacy battle between nonunion contractors and a chorus of unions has spilled into B.C. Supreme Court after the province’s privacy commissioner ordered a financial regulator to release union pension plan records.
     In three lawsuits this week, a group of unions and affiliated pension plans claim British Columbia’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner wrongfully directed the province’s Financial Institutions Commission to release certain records to the Independent Contractors and Business Association.
     The ICBA is a group of “open shop” employers whose members compete with organized labor in British Columbia.
     The association sought information in November 2010 from the Financial Institutions Commission (FICOM), which collects pension records from unions for the B.C. government’s Ministry of Finance.
     The ICBA sought details on several unions’ plans, including the number of members, average age of employees, annual average of hours worked, and information on contribution amounts per hour, surpluses and unfunded liabilities.
     Some records were released, but some were withheld under provisions of the province’s freedom of information act meant to protect third parties from harm.
     The ICBA appealed the decision to withhold the records.
     FICOM agreed to release the records, but the unions challenged the decision.
     On Jan. 28 this year, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner directed the regulator to hand over the records.
     The unions and pension plans sued.
     In one petition, the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada Local 170 claims the ICBA is “gathering wage and benefit information in the unionized construction industry … to gain an advantage in respect of its competition with the petitioner and other unions.”
     The unions claim release of the records “will interfere significantly with the negotiating position of the petitioner in its collective bargaining relationship with its signatory employers and will also result in financial loss to the petitioner.”
     “The petitioner and the ICBA have a long-standing competitive and adversarial relationship,” the petition states. “The ICBA is intent on destroying the multi-employer unionized collective bargaining intrastructure in which the petitioner operates.”
     Local 170 is represented by Theodore Arsenault, with Shortt & Arsenault in Vancouver.
     Other petitioners include the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Ironworkers, Local 97; the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Ironworkers, Local 97 Pension Plan; and the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association, Local No. 280.
     They are represented by Derrill Thompson of Main Street Law Group.
     A similar petition was filed by Trustees of the Sheet Metal Workers (Local 280) Pension Plan; Trustees of the Pile Drivers, Divers, Bridge, Dock & Wharf Builders Pension Plan; Trustees of the Operating Engineers’ Pension Plan; Trustees of the Cement Masons’ Pension Plan (Local 919); Trustees of the BC Labourers’ Pension Plan; Trustees of the Local 213 Electrical Workers’ Pension Plan; and Trustees of the Plumbers Local 170 Pension Plan. They are represented by Ron A. Skolrood with Lawson Lundell in Vancouver.

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