Ontario Labour Relations Board orders immediate certification of SEIU Healthcare as union for Sunrise of Aurora

Attn: News Editors

OLRB cites unfair labour practices

(April 8, 2013 Richmond Hill, ON) The Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) has ordered the immediate certification of the Service Employees International Union, Local 1 Canada (SEIU Healthcare) as the exclusive bargaining agent for workers employed at Sunrise of Aurora, a senior living community located in Aurora Ontario. Sunrise is owned by Healthcare REIT, one of North America’s largest real-estate and investment trusts, and operates in 311 communities with over 40,000 residents and 4,000 employees in Canada, the United States and in the United Kingdom.

In a 53-page decision, the Board agreed with SEIU Healthcare’s contention that Sunrise of Aurora had engaged in unfair labour practices in relation to the union’s attempts to work with Sunrise employees to organize their workplace. The Board found the practices of Sunrise violated the Ontario Labour Relations Act and the rights of workers. SEIU Healthcare has been working with Sunrise of Aurora employees for more than a year in their fight to achieve fair representation.

From the decision:

“...the core theory of the SEIU case concerning the alleged unfair labour practices has been made out. The proposed bargaining unit at Aurora is not tiny but it is certainly not large. Employees at this location, from the moment that Sunrise became aware of the union’s organizing efforts, found themselves the object of unusual attention. In my judgment, certain aspects of that attention, viewed cumulatively, amounted to “undue influence” within the meaning of s.70 of the Act. I am also satisfied that the Unionville bulletin crossed the line with its inferential references to job security and thereby violated sections 70, 72, and 76.”

“This decision by the OLRB represents a tremendous victory for healthcare workers employed at Sunrise of Aurora, and for all Ontario workers,” said Sharleen Stewart, President, SEIU Healthcare, which represents more than 50,000 frontline healthcare workers in Canada.  “What is crucial is that the Board recognized that Sunrise took unfair advantage of its position and authority in an attempt to sway the will of the employees by threatening job loss or a reduction of hours if they supported unionization.   These were major factors in the Board’s decision to immediately certify SEIU.  This type of decision by the OLRB is rare and historic.”

Stewart stressed that the OLRB’s decision underscores how people have the legal right to organize if they choose, and that attempts by employers to harass employees or imply threats to their job security in exercising their legal rights will not be tolerated. “This is a perfect example of the law being enforced, and sets a precedent for all other employers in Ontario,” she said.

Stewart added that SEIU Healthcare is committed to working with all its members to achieve fair wages and benefits, and ensure safe working conditions. It will be a priority for SEIU Healthcare to work closely with Sunrise of Aurora employees in the coming months to negotiate a collective agreement that respects workers and ensures the delivery of quality care.

“We congratulate the dedicated employees at Sunrise of Aurora who fought tirelessly to achieve fairness and respect for the valuable work they do in caring for people,” said Stewart. “The determination and strength they have shown in working with SEIU to give a voice to workers is truly inspirational.”

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