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On August 28th around 8:00 o’clock a.m. two City of Vancouver trucks driven by Streets Department managers attempted to cross the picket line at the National Yard.  They were doing so in violation of a letter of understanding that had been reached between the Union and the City on July 31, 2007.  The picketers blocked the trucks and prevented them from entering or leaving the Yard.

Within hours the City had applied to the court for an injunction. Normally, such injunctions are sought at the Labour Relations Board rather than before the Supreme Courts, so this move was unusual. The injunction application was heard by Madam Justice Boyd on August 29th and 30th.

The City argued that the two vehicles had been “blockaded” by the union picketers.  It argued that the City had an unfettered right to have access to any City-owned property.  It argued that any blocking or impeding of that access was illegal, and merited the intervention of the court.

The Union’s argument was that the City trucks were being driven by managers from the Streets Division, whereas the letter of understanding required that they be driven only by managers from the Sanitation Department.  The City had sought an order permitting it to move managers to duties across departments, in addition to their home department.  However, no order was obtained from the Labour Board enabling them to do that.  They had also been specifically cautioned by the Board that their doing so may attract an unfair labour complaint from the Union, that they were acting contrary to Section 68 of the Labour Code.

Union counsel also argued that this was one of the flimsiest cases of improper conduct he had seen.  The Union had conducted a peaceful and lawful picket line for six weeks.  There had not been a single complaint to the Labour Relations Board nor to the court of any improper conduct.  Yet within hours of an allegation of the blocking of two trucks, the City was in court requesting an injunction on an urgent basis.

This was not a case that required the intervention of the courts. This was a dispute over the interpretation of the essential service order as well as the letter of understanding. The dispute belonged at the Labour Relations Board, and not the court.

The court agreed with the Union’s arguments. It dismissed the application for the injunction.  Costs were not expressly discussed, but costs normally are awarded to the successful party. CUPE expects that its costs in opposing the City’s application will be awarded to the Union by the court.

In related proceedings on August 29th, the Union filed an unfair labour practice against the City, arguing that it had violated the anti-strike-breaking provisions contained in Sections 68 and 6 of the Labour Code in using management drivers from the Streets Department to perform work normally done by Sanitation.  It will be heard on September 5, 2007.