Labour board plays crucial role

By: Rob Altemeyer

As published in The Metro

July 21, 2015

Recently another chapter was added to Winnipeg’s proud labour history, right here in Wolseley.

Just last month, workers at the Tim Hortons on the corner of Portage Avenue and Sprague Street became the first to unionize a franchise here in Manitoba. I invited the union leaders of the Workers United Council of Canada to the Manitoba legislature to honour their important accomplishment.

The struggle to unionize this Tim Hortons was not an easy one. At a hearing held by the Manitoba Labour Relations Board, the employer admitted to making threats to shut down the store altogether if the workers formed a union. This occurred despite the fact that workers’ right to unionize has been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada. During the process of unionizing, one worker with five years’ experience was actually fired, just for talking to a union representative.

In its ruling, the Labour Relations Board not only enabled the workers to form a union, but also fully reinstated the fired employee and awarded damages of $1,500 to the worker. Now the 35 workers are negotiating their first collective agreement with their employer.

This case is an important reminder of both the progress we’ve made and the challenges that remain in our society when it comes to workers’ rights. For instance, when I was born the Manitoba Labour Relations Board didn’t even exist, yet we can see the crucial role it plays today in ensuring workers’ rights are actually implemented in the workplace.

Historically, these rights have rarely been given — they had to be claimed. Before the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919, there was no such thing as a "Labour Day" long weekend. Actually, there was no such thing as a weekend, period. Minimum wage laws, workplace safety protections and pensions were also once unheard of, but now benefit everyone, thanks largely to the activist work of unions.

Congratulations to the staff at the 1146 Portage Ave. Tim Hortons location for your hard-fought victory, and I look forward to hearing more about your next steps soon.

If you have questions or concerns about concerns in your workplace, please contact me anytime at 204-775-8575 or email me at Rob.Altemeyer@YourManitoba.ca.