REGINA, SK - Two long-time employees at the Welfare Rights Centre, who were terminated last summer in reprisal for joining a union, must be reinstated to their positions and compensated for their monetary loss by their employer, the Labour Relations Board ruled yesterday.
The ruling, which comes just days before the centre is set to close, found the employer’s decision to fire Pam Belanger and Lea Bage was motivated by anti-union animus rather than insurance concerns as alleged by management.
Ms. Belanger and Ms. Bage were both on the executive and bargaining committee of their newly formed union local when they were suspended and then fired.
The union insisted the employer’s decision to fire these two local activists was done to intimidate staff who had recently joined CUPE.
The Labour Relations Board agreed. “The termination of these two employees would send a very strong signal in that environment,” said LRB chairperson Ken Love in the decision. “The timing of the events and the background of the issues faced by the Union in attempting to negotiate on behalf of the employees of the Centre, in our opinion, give rise to a presumption of anti-union animus in the terminations.”
Love dismissed the employer’s claim they had fired Belanger and Bage because they were not bondable. He said the insurance issue was “a red herring” that “ignored the years of faithful service provided by these two employees, in respect of whom there had never been an insurance issue.”
“The labour board got to the truth and I’m very happy about it,” says Bage, “I hope the government takes the next step and keeps the centre open.”
The Regina Welfare Rights Centre has provided advocacy and support services for residents on low incomes for more than 35 years. Late last year, the Ministry of Social Services said it intended to terminate funding to the centre February 25.
Although anti-poverty activists organized a new group – the Friends of the Welfare Rights Centre – to provide these services once the centre closes, the provincial government ignored their repeated requests to meet.
For more information:
- Visit the facebook page Support the Welfare Rights Centre Workers
- Contact CUPE National Representative Guy Marsden at 306-525-5874