Broader Federal Jurisdiction Over Labour Relations Connected to Federal Undertaking
October 22, 2018
In 2015, the Labourers’ International Union Of North America, Ontario Provincial District Council filed an application for certification against Ramkey Communications Inc. (“Ramkey”), which employed construction employees that installed, maintained, and repaired portions of telecommunications networks. At the time the application was filed, almost all of Ramkey’s work was performed for Rogers.
Telecommunications companies, like airports, generally fall within federal jurisdiction. However, there is strong presumption that labour relations are a matter of provincial jurisdiction. Jurisprudence, including from Supreme Court of Canada and the Ontario Labour Relations Board, has determined that building, constructing or performing maintenance on a federal undertaking “is not vital, integral to the operation of a federal undertaking” and therefore fell within provincial jurisdiction.
The issue initially arose before the OLRB in Labourers’ International Union of North America, Ontario Provincial District Council v. Ramkey Communications Inc. In this case, the Board distinguished between the construction and the operation of a federal undertaking and held that Ramkey had not rebutted the strong presumption of provincial jurisdiction over labour relations.
Ramkey filed an application for judicial review with the Ontario Divisional Court. The main issue before the Court was whether Ramkey’s construction technicians were engaged in work that was vital, essential or integral to a federal undertaking.
The Divisional Court took a different view from the OLRB. It distinguished the jurisprudence on which the Board had relied and held that that Ramkey’s construction technicians were engaged in work that is in fact vital, essential or integral to a federal undertaking and which should therefore be federally regulated. Ramkey’s application for judicial review was granted and the Board decision was quashed.
This decision opens the door for employers performing construction or maintenance work on federal undertakings to assert that federal legislation, rather than provincial jurisdiction, should regulate their labour relations and, as such, the OLRB does not have jurisdiction over matters central to their functions.