An independent arbitrator has found BC Ferries did not have the right to lay off hundreds of employees due to the pandemic. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)

BC Ferries wrongfully laid off hundreds of workers at beginning of pandemic

Independent arbitrator finds layoffs breached collective agreement

BC Ferries did not have the right to lay off hundreds of employees due to the pandemic, an independent arbitrator has found.

Employees were notified on April 3 that the company would be temporarily laying off hundreds of employees due to the profound decline in ferry traffic as the pandemic took hold.

The next day, regular and casual employees began to be laid off.

READ ALSO: BC Ferries revenue down $109 million in first quarter of 2020

Within six days, about 425 regular employees and about 690 casual employees were notified of their temporary layoffs. These employees were told that BC Ferries did not know when service levels would go back to normal, but that every effort would be made to recall them “as soon as [BC Ferries] can.”

In the following days, the BC Ferry and Marine Workers Union filed a grievance alleging BC Ferries had violated the collective agreement.

“The employer’s decision was unquestionably disruptive to the lives of its employees, denying them pay and their work identity during a time of crisis. The employer’s only justification for taking these extreme measures was to save money,” argued the union.

According to the ferry service’s quarterly report, BC Ferries lost $62 million – a stark contrast to the net earnings of $12.2 million from the same quarter in 2019. Ending June 30, 2020, first-quarter revenue was $137.4 million, down $109 million year over year.

READ ALSO: Feds offer ‘life preserver’ funds to BC Ferries as pandemic sinks revenue

Starting in May, BC Ferries began to recall some of its employees and by July 2 all regular and casual employees were recalled to work.

Arbitrator John B. Hall found the layoffs breached the collective agreement between BC Ferries and the union. In Hall’s Sept. 28 decision, he noted that the company did not have the right to place regular employees on ‘off duty status’ and that employees should have continued to be paid in accordance with the negotiated salary schedules.

BC Ferries has approximately 4,200 union employees, of those 3,100 are regular and the remaining 1,100 are casual employees. The company also employs about 450 seasonal workers throughout the summer.

Now, determining the remedial consequences such as outstanding wages, benefits and damages will go back to BC Ferries and the union for resolution.

– With files from Nina Grossman


 

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.  
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

bc ferry

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Drive up voting is popular with Victoria-Swan Lake voters at the Craigflower elementary polling station. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
Drive up voting popular at Craigflower polling station in Victoria-Swan Lake

Nearly 13,000 mail-in ballots were requested in the Victoria-Swan Lake riding

Oak Bay High voting station was slow and steady for the provincial election day, Oct. 24, 2020. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Early voting reduces election day turnout in Oak Bay-Gordon Head

An estimated 15,918 mail-in ballots requested in Oak Bay-Gordon Head

This was the line-up outside Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre at around 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The short-up line speaks to the high number of votes, which have already been cast against the backdrop of COVID-19 by mail or in advanced voting. Voters, however, unanimously praised the safety measures in place, as well the convenience of the polling stations. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
‘Slow’ turnout at polls across Saanich North and the Islands

Peter Mason, district electoral officer, expects about 10,000 ballots to be cast

Polls close at 8 p.m. in the Esquimalt-Metchosin riding. (Katherine Engqvist/News Staff)
VIDEO: Esquimalt-Metchosin candidates reflect on campaign as polls close

An estimated 12,000 mail-in ballots were requested in the Esquimalt-Metchosin riding

Barb Wright and Cynthia Vance at the District Electoral Office for the Langford-Juan de Fuca (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
Polls now closed in Langford-Juan de Fuca

An estimated 12,120 mail-in ballots were requested in the Langford-Juan de Fuca riding

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson,  BC NDP leader John Horgan and BC Green leader Sonia Furstenau. (File)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Climate change and sustainability promises from the parties

Snap election has led to a short campaign; here’s the lowdown on the platforms

Most Read