Appeal of anti-union boss fails to stop union certification in Coquitlam

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An anti-union boss in Coquitlam has failed to stop his employees from forming a trade union, according to the B.C. Labour Relations Board.

Allan Dasanjh, founder and owner of Waste Control Services Inc., had his appeal of an earlier B.C. Labour Relations Board decision thrown out on Dec. 1.

“We find no merit to the Employer’s assertion that the original panel denied it a fair hearing,” the board found.

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An August 2022 decision ordered a remedial certification of Local 115 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, after the union alleged Dasanjh had carried out a: “concerted anti-union campaign.”

The board judged Dasanjh to have violated several sections of the Labour Relations Code relating to unfair labour practices following a four-day hearing.

Waste Control Services employs between 130 and 135 workers, offering pick-up services for recycling, organics and paper shredding.

Dasanjh grew the company from a single used truck in 1993 to a fleet of 65 by the time the organizing drive began, according to court documents.

Dasanjh testified at the hearing “that he has complete control over all aspects of the company if he chose to exercise it,” and considered the company “an extension of himself.”

He also said that “if his employees wanted to unionize … he would rather that they work somewhere else.”

In the original decision, the union alleged Dasanjh’s conduct, use of statements and threats were a coordinated effort to dissuade employees from joining the local and preventing certification.

The company first appeared in front of the board in January 2022, following the dismissal of the union’s head organizer, Derek Anderson. 

The board determined that he was fired for anti-union reasons and ordered his reinstatement. 

Anderson was shunned by Dasanjh afterwards, “ignoring him completely, including in front of other employees.”

Another employee, Dan Ratzlaff, was told to stay away from Anderson in February. A short time later, Ratzlaff was asked by Dasanjh if he supported the union, to which he responded that he was “on the fence.”

Dasanjh became agitated and told him “he should go back to the company he came from.”

Afterwards, Ratzlaff said he felt he was at risk of losing his job afterwards, and the relationship became more strained after Dasanjh discovered union-pamphlets in the back of his vehicle.

“Dasanjh ‘made it clear to Ratzlaff that those who supported the Union (like Anderson) had to go and the Union was unwelcome,’” the board found.

Further workplace anti-union incidents and communications continued through February and March. 

These included union-supporting workers’ vehicles being vandalized, a memo threatening a lockout, and several heated confrontations.

Dasanjh argued that these incidents were “very limited in scope” and did not justify a forced certification, as union supporters continued to organize afterwards. 

He also claimed that they lacked wide support among their peers.

The board, however, found that Dasanjh was “at the centre” of numerous and serious labour code breaches, and that his conduct justified the union’s certification.

“They were not ‘mild in severity’ as the Employer asserts. They represented a continued attack on the Union’s lead inside organizer (Anderson) and an attempt to prevent another organizer (Ratzlaff) from assisting the Union,” the decision said.

They note the employer’s actions undermined the board’s previous remedial order following the reinstatement of Anderson, which gave Dasanjh a second chance to avoid a forced certification.

“A different remedy was already tried with this employer. It does not get a second bite of the apple,” the board wrote. “I have no confidence that this employer would not continue its assault on the employees’ right to exercise their rights under the code.”

Appeal

The company took issue with the original decision’s judgment regarding unfair labour practices.

It claimed the labour code was misinterpreted because the impact of these incidents were never explained, nor was there evidence they had an effect on his employees’ outlook or ability to organize.

The company claimed that the board’s decision put too much weight on Dasanjh’s conduct and testimony at the hearing, which they considered an “improper and extraneous consideration.”

“Regardless of the original panel’s distaste for what it saw as Dasanjh’s lack of regard for the authority of the board, the original panel erred in taking that into account in awarding remedial certification,” the company argued.

The board stated that in order to reconsider the remedial certification, “serious questions as to the correctness or fairness of the original decision” must be raised.

“Reconsideration is not an opportunity to re-argue the case before a different panel of the board in hope of a different outcome,” they said. “The board does not reconsider findings of fact made by an original panel, absent palpable and overriding error.”

“The Employer does not allege such error, and in any event, we find no basis for concluding the high bar for finding such error is met in this case.” 

None of the company’s arguments for reconsideration were accepted by the board.

“The employer could reasonably have anticipated that the original panel would consider, among other things, Dasanjh’s testimony at the hearing, including the views he expressed about his employees’ right to choose whether to unionize.”

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