Dec 02 issue also available as Adobe PDF.....previous issue June 02
Vol 38 No 3 This editon mailed December 27, 2002 Publications Mail Registration number 40667532
Judgment reserved in suit by International
BC Carpenters anxiously await the outcome of a court case brought by the International Union, demanding access to BC Provincial Council of Carpenters books and records. Judgement on the case was reserved by Madam Justice Brenda Brown in BC Supreme Court on November 4, 2002 after 15 days of testimony and more than 20 days of discovery evidence. Justice Brown is expected to deliver her verdict soon, hopefully by early in the new year.
The case stems from a demand by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners International General President Doug McCarron to send a team of auditors, pursuant to Section 10 B of the UBCJA Constitution, to take possession for examination all books, papers and other records, including all financial records of the Provincial Council.
The demand, dated June 9, 2000, goes on to detail a twopage list of information to be provided, most of which is available in the convention reports published annually, according to Provincial Council Secretarytreasurer David Flynn.
A number of Local Unions received similar letters within a span of several days.
The BC Council refused permission for KPMG to scour the books looking for excuses to put the council under trusteeship, as BC President Len Embree said at the time.
McCarron, in his 10B order, suggested he was concerned about the tenor of resolutions at the April 2000 Provincial Convention that gave him the impression BC Carpenters were about to split from the International.
He also added he was concerned about the finances of the BC Provincial Council and G.R.&S Holdings, the holding company that the Provincial Council has used to hold and administer its assets since 1970.
When asked why the Provincial Council was opposed to granting the International access to the books, Flynn said he is suspicious about McCarrons motives. I believe that this directive is the first step towards the International moving to put the Provincial Council under trusteeship, he said.
In court McCarron said, I wanted to protect the assets of the United Brotherhood, and I read some resolutions that were passed at the Provincial Council convention that called for called for taking all reference to the United Brotherhood out of their constitution, it called for not allowing representatives of the United Brotherhood to attend the convention, and it also called for doing away with the per capita tax and I believe putting like a 25 cent what they call franchise fee in there, and, in fact, they did stop representatives of the Brotherhood from going to the convention. And that was just unprecedented, and I wanted to act to secure the assets of the United Brotherhood, and thats what you know, I wanted to hire a good international accounting firm, KPMG, to go in there and give me where where the assets and the records of the Brotherhood were right at that time. I wanted to know where they were so I could protect those assets.
When asked in court if he had examined the audited financial statements of the BC Provincial Council and G.R. & S Holdings Ltd., he had to admit he had not. Nor had he instructed anyone else to brief him on the finances of the Council since the 10B order was given, over two years ago.
Section 10B of the International Constitution states: The General President may personally, or by deputy, take possession for examination of all books, papers and other records, including all financial records, of any Local Union, District Council, State Council or Provincial Council, summarily when necessary, and the same shall remain in possession of the General President within the jurisdiction of the Local Union, District Council, State Council or Provincial Council until a complete report has been made and filed. During said examination a representative of the Local Union, District Council, State Council or Provincial Council may be present.
In cross examination, McCarron said he had been told about the convention resolutions by Ninth and Tenth Districts Representative Jim Smith and his attorneys, but had not read the convention proceedings himself. He also indicated he was not aware that similar resolutions had been passed at many previous conventions with no drastic action being taken.
McCarron indicated that neither of two of his co-plaintiffs in the action, Wayne Cox of 1598 Victoria or Mike Autzen of 1541 Floorlayers, both of whom were members of the Provincial Executive Board and privy to all financial information, had ever been asked for or volunteered these records. Autzen, it was pointed out, was a Provincial Council Trustee for several years
McCarron said he didnt like Port Alberni walkout or the 1997 Convention anti-yank demos
and had never indicated any dissatisfaction with the Councils records. He said he was never refused
McCarron complained about the reception he got from members in British Columbia.
He described his 1999 tour of Vancouver Island, saying:
The first meeting we went to (on Vancouver Island) was Port Alberni and it wasnt a very it
Parts of the video of the Port Alberni meeting were entered as evidence at the trial by the Internationals
McCarron indicated he had previously received a hostile reception at a BC Provincial Carpenters
I spoke at the (1997) BC Convention. And there was a lot of hostility at the convention towards
McCarrons position implies that the International Constitution gives him unfettered rights to
This trial has been a huge strain on Council resources: 15 days of trial testimony, over 20 days of
The officers and staff of the Provincial Council look forward to it being over soon.
for more background information see Winter 01/02 On The Level:
Strike Fund referendum passes
BC Carpenters have overwhelmingly approved a plan to finance the fightback against the International lawsuits from the strike fund.
Almost 80 percent of the membership voting on a referendum this fall approved a change to the Provincial Constitution that would allow the Council to pay the legal expenses of the current dispute with the International from the Strike and Defence fund. The resolution and recommendation coming out of the April 2002 Provincial Convention, K1 Use of Strike Fund Monies, indicated that there is little likelihood of an industry-wide labour dispute in the near future that would require a large part of the nearly $7 million sitting in the strike fund. The resolution indicated that the cost of carrying out the fight against the Internationals restructuring initiative has placed a considerable drain on the Councils general fund, leaving it almost depleted.
The referendum question was: Are you in favour of the recommendation adopted by the 59th Convention to amend the wording of the Provincial Council of Carpenters Constitution as follows:
A The Construction Locals Strike and Defence Fund is established for the purpose of providing strike and lockout pay in accordance with Section 18 and for the payment of defence costs in accordance with Section 19A and for the payment of any legal fees and disbursement associated with litigation initiated or financed by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America or its officers against the Provincial Council or its affiliated Local Unions or District Councils.
The 79 per cent vote in favour is even higher than the previous referenda held on autonomy and restructuring, indicating a commitment of the members to get on with achieving a resolution to the dispute with the International that will preserve the democratic rights of the membership to vote on the structure and governance of their organization.
So far, the International has dragged its feet in approving many of the recent constitutional changes mandated by an overwhelming majority of the BC membership.
Lawsuit finally concluded: now we wait for a verdict
After many days of discovery hearings, enough documents to fill a small warehouse, and three full weeks in court, the Internationals lawsuit seeking to seize the Provincial Councils books and records is finally over. The evidence is in, the arguments are complete. Now all that remains is waiting for the Judges decision.
This lawsuit was filed by the International in July 2000, after the Provincial Council refused to give the International appointed auditor access to the Councils books. In laymans terms, the lawsuit is based on the premise that the UBCJA constitution is a binding contract that gives the General President the absolute authority to take possession of all the Councils books and records. They attempted to justify the need for an audit by arguing that the General President was concerned the Provincial Council may cease operating as a subordinate body of the International. In the event that the members in BC decide to break away, the position of the International is that all the assets of the union, those assets that the members in BC have built up over the last hundred years, would become the property of the International. Therefore, argued the International, the General President needs an accurate accounting of all those assets.
Our defense was based on the position that the International was acting in bad faith. We dont believe that the General Presidents directive has anything to do with an accounting of the assets. The International already has access to all the Councils financial information. We believe that the directive was all about furthering the Internationals restructuring agenda in BC Its a picture weve all seen before. Just as in the case a few years ago with Local 1928, the International sends in the auditor to look for any irregularities, real or imagined. Based on the auditors report, the General President orders supervision hearings. The goal of the exercise would be to remove the elected officers, appoint a supervisor and assume control of the union in BC in order to advance their restructuring agenda.
Whatever the final outcome of the lawsuit, the evidence will eventually be made public so you can judge for yourself about the underlying motives of the International and their supporters. That will have to wait for now, however, because the International is attempting to suppress publication by threatening us with a defamation suit if we publish our final arguments. We can be patient. Soon enough it will all come out.
One thing that became very clear through all of this is that the International has been extremely frustrated with their inability to bully the members and elected leadership in BC into submission. In what I thought was a very peculiar line of questioning when I was being cross examined in court, counsel for the International asked me that whenever the International tries to do something in British Columbia you are very vigilant to make sure that whoever is the subject of the Internationals action has legal advisors
to ensure natural justice is complied with; isnt that right?
He went on to ask, So you make sure that theres counsel there to ensure that proceduralfairness and natural justice principles are adhered to by the International?
The answer to those questions, Im proud to report, is an emphatic Yes. And we will continue to do so whenever it is necessary. The sad part of this commentary is that supposed trade unionists have to be forced to comply with basic democratic principles such as natural justice and procedural fairness.
Spotlight on organizing by Josh Coles, provincial organizer
In an effort to get more work for union carpenters, lathers and floor-layers in BC, the BC Provincial Carpenters has formed a relationship with the Fraternité Nationale (FN), the largest civil construction union in Quebec.
The alliance was formed last month when, on behalf of the BC Provincial Council Executive Board, Local 1995 Organizers Apolo Suarez and Jan Noster and myself met with representatives of the FN in Montreal.
The goal of our burgeoning relationship is to spread the strength of the FN directly to BC Carpenters Union members. Many contractors that operate non-union in BC are unionized in Quebec. For example, Peter Kiewit is currently building $2 billion worth of dams and powerhouses and in and around Grand-Mère. Most carpenters are FN members on the mega project and FN leadership has made a commitment to help BC organize Peter Kiewit by applying pressure on Quebec job-sites.
This kind of cross-Canada solidarity can only help strengthen the BC Carpenters Union success in organizing. For their part, the FN also knows that unionizing a contractor across Canada adds more steam to their own powerhouse union.
More Similarities than Differences
By law, Quebec construction workers must hold the required certificates and must join a union. There are a variety of unions that workers can choose to join but most carpenters, lathers and floorlayers belong to one of the he FNs two province-wide Local Unions. Local 2366 represents lathers and floorlayers while Local 9 is made up of carpenters and piledrivers.
FN members work on nearly every civil construction job in Quebec, which is experiencing its greatest building boom in a decade.
Quebec Construction Union Relations Unique
In other words, a union agreement with one contractor in a region of Quebec became the agreement for all the contractors working in that region.
Construction labour relations in Quebec operate in highly regulated environment and differs from BC in many ways. Quebec collective bargaining is highly centralized, focused on just a few rounds of bargaining frameworks, while BCs is so fragmented it seems chaotic.
In Quebec, unions and employers negotiate the agreements, but enforcement of these agreements is not done through a grievance procedure controlled by the unions. Instead, the Commission de la Construction, a government body, does it. Stewards and union representatives give particulars to the governmentand instruct them to file a grievance.
But all is not perfect in Quebec. The underground economy is rampant, cutting into the legitimate construction market. Construction unions also struggle with the erosion of standardize skills training, E.I. violations, and persistent corporate attacks.
Another problem for Quebec workers is the increase in US duties on softwood lumber, which are having a devastating ripple affect in the construction industry across Canada. We were asked numerous times by Quebec workers about how we are fighting back against the UBCJA and their public support for the tariffs.
These federal issues are one reason why Fraternité Nationale is reaching out to the BC Carpenters Union. Another reason is that they see a reflection of themselves in our struggle with the UBCJA and our quest for liberation from a foreign body.
National Organization Considered
Based on our discussion last month in Montreal, this organization will be one based on mutual respect and democracy. Neither groups will tell the other what to do or think, but both will assist each other wherever possible.
Such an organization is only fitting, considering most members and contractors move laterally from coast to coast, not from the south to the north. Further details of the new organization will be presented at the spring BC Provincial Council Convention for debate and possible ratification.
Vive la Columbie-Britannique! Vive la Quebec! Vive la Fraternité!
Membership is resolute
Almost 20 days of examination for discovery and three weeks of trial finally have come to an end.
The cost to our membership, in terms of both time and money, has been extraordinary. This, of course, was part of the Internationals strategy. It hasnt stopped us until now, and it wont in the future.
Our membership is resolute in our struggle for autonomy. The 79 per cent support on the last referendum vote should make that clear to even the most uninformed International supporter. Not that it will make any difference in their arrogant and demeaning attitude towards the membership in BC.
What Im sure they werent counting on and this, of course, includes the plaintiffs from BC was the information that came out of the trial that, in my opinion, is an absolute indictment of their integrity. To this end, weve already been threatened with legal action if we publish our statement of defence. What a shameful response. Let me say, from my point of view, that the membership has the right to review all the appropriate evidence and testimony presented in this case. To that end, initial information has been published in this issue. We, of course, will not go outside the legal advice given to us by our counsel but there will be a thorough airing of all issues raised at trial when this is all over.
What was most astounding to me in this event was how justified we have been in our suspicion of their motives, and also how integral the BC plaintiffs were to this deception. Fortunately, this experience ensures that our membership will not be deceived by these characters in the future. So, win or lose this particular lawsuit, we will continue in our fight for autonomy.
Justification at CLC Which brings me to the CLC justification application. In the courtroom, the International made much of our application. What completely escaped them was our absolute right in our country, Canada, under the CLC constitution to make this application. At the present time, we are awaiting word from the Congress on how and when to proceed with a CLC-conducted vote of all our bargaining units in BC on affiliating directly to the CLC. This avenue is being pursued on suggestion of CLC President Ken Georgetti, after a meeting he had with Brother David Flynn and myself on October 16 this year.
I fully appreciate our memberships frustration with the process, but I also appreciate that this is the largest application ever received by the CLC; consequently, every effort is being made to adhere to the process in the constitution. Once we receive instruction from the Congress, we will get the information out to the membership.
The Provincial Council position remains the same as it has for a number of years. We will not stand by and watch the rest of the trades go to work for any non-union contractor, with no support whatsoever for the carpenter. If contractors wish to apply for consolidation, which by the way involves the workers for that contractor voting on which union they wish to have represent them, we will respect that decision of the workers, regardless of the result. This issue will probably continue for some time, with considerable subjective background music!
CLC Justification application
The Canadian Labour Congress requested information, which has been provided, so a vote can be conducted of all the members in British Columbia. The vote will likely be conducted by each bargaining authority. This means where local unions hold their own bargaining rights, such as School Boards or Industrial shops, the vote will be counted separately. Each bargaining authority will require a majority of members to be able to directly affiliate to the Canadian Labour Congress.
A direct affiliation will bring the dispute to a resolve. At this point, any litigation against British Columbia must cease and no further lawsuits are to be launched. If either side fails to comply, the CLC constitution allows expulsion from the Canadian Labour Congress for failure to adhere to the justification process.
This dispute has lasted far too long. The only way to resolve it is with a vote of the members, conducted by the CLC.
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