The Westbank First Nation (WFN) has an issue with what it says is the fairness of a Pine Acres Home (PAH) labour dispute with the British Columbia General Employees Union (BCGEU).
A media release from WFN reads an arbitrator recently ruled in favour of the BCGEU, stating that “layoff” provision applied instead of the “severance” provision. The layoff provision, however, is designed for a temporary layoff with an expected recall to work, while the “severance” provision is designed for final termination.
“WFN is arguing the closure of Pine Acres resulted in the termination, not the layoff, of our employees, and as such are exploring our appeal options in order to obtain the best result for our membership,” said WFN council.
The BCGEU almost immediately, shut down negotiations, declined mediation and forced WFN into arbitration, according to the release.
“We welcome the opportunity to re-engage in respectful and productive negotiations as we believe our people deserve a fair hearing and outcome,” added WFN council
The decision to close WFN’s long-term care facility was made October 4, 2021 due in part to staffing shortages following the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirement implemented by the province, which compounded existing staffing shortages.
In addition, most of the building’s structure, systems, and equipment were beyond their lifecycle and failing. Notice of its closure was provided to PAH employees Oct. 4, outlining their entitlements upon termination. WFN says job fairs were held to assist employees in obtaining other employment with the vast majority securing employment while still working at PAH or immediately following its closure.
Permanent union staff received 28 days notice plus eight weeks pay under the BC Employment Standards Act, and WFN says it also paid staff a four-week lump sum.
As a result of the arbitration ruling, a portion of the severance for permanent BCGUE employees remains unresolved/unpaid.
WFN says it has paid out approximately $440,000 in severance to PAH permanent unionized employees and all PAH employees received a three-week continuance of pay as well as a 30-day extension to their health and dental benefits.