What are the respective rights and obligations of employees, the union, and the employer in a situation such as this?
The Labor Relations Actguarantee employees certain workplace rights. It defines the employee as someone who works according to the employer’s schedule, with employer’s tools and in a workplace determined by the employer for a salary. Lewin & Gollan (2011) reveal that employees have two major obligations towards their employer or the organization that employs them. To begin with, employees must perform their work as stipulated in their job description. However, employees may refuse to do anything that violates their professional ethics, or it threatens their safety, or it is illegal in their country. Secondly, employees must remain loyal to their employer. It is the obligation of the employees to keep off from situations that conflict with the interests of the employer. Moreover, the must avoid using the confidential information for personal gain.
Employers, on the other hand, have several legal obligations towards their employees. Lewin & Gollan (2011) notes that they should only provide their employees with work that matches their job description or employment contract. Moreover, it is the responsibility of the employers to pay their employees regularly and to compensate them for any additional hours worked beyond a standard workweek commonly referred as overtime. Employers must also ensure that they do not put the safety and health of their employees at risk through the unfavorable working environment. When terminating an employee’s contract, it is the obligation of the employers to issue a reasonable notice, or they compensate the employee for the notice period. Employees working in a similar establishment must be accorded the same employment terms and conditions. Furthermore, employers must respect their employees while cultivating a workplace that protects their dignity. Employers must also provide a workplace environment that is free from sexual harassment and discrimination of any kind.
Although trade unions are primarily for fighting for the rights of their members, they also acknowledgethe importance of a good partnership with employers. Lewin & Gollan (2011) observe that they recognize the fact that a successful organization is not only good for the employer but also for the workers and the union. Trade unions have the obligation of promoting collective bargaining power for its members. It represents its members in negotiating with the employer for a better pay and good working conditions. Trade unions also have the obligation of promoting the welfare of their members such as protection froma subjective action, protection froman unreasonable working schedule, promoting job security, and enhancing work-life balance. Trade unions also prevent employers’ unfair labor practices such as victimizing employees who file complaints with the Labor Relations Board. Additionally, trade unions play a central role is creation and development of labor regulations. They lobby for implementation of labor laws as well as disseminating necessary information to their members.
What are the critical issues to be decided by the board?
One of the issues to be decided by the Alberta Labor Relations Board according to Alberta Labor Relations Board, UFCW Local 401 et al. v. Mariposa Stores Limited et al., (1986) is the dismissal without good cause. All the staff from store 58 were dismissed without a sufficient ground. Included in the dismissal were the store manager, Elaine Howatt, who had a track record of performing exceptionally well before her dismissal. Additionally, three other staff who were newly recruited and Alison Ranson, who had been on holiday was dismissed. Another critical issue to be decided by the board is the certification of the union. Whether the union in question has met the necessary conditions to become the bargaining agent for employees of store 58. The third critical issue to be decided by the board is whether Mariposa Stores Limited engaged in unfair labor practices and if so, the right action to take to remedy the situation.
Which party bears the burden of proof, and why?
According to the Alberta Labor Relations Board, UFCW Local 401 et al. v. Mariposa Stores Limited et al., (1986) the company, Mariposa Stores Limited bears the burden of proof in this case due to several reasons. Contrary to the company’s reason for firing, Elaine Hawatt’s testimony indicates that Company’s newsletters praised store 58 on various occasions for exemplary performance. Hawatt also indicated to the Alberta board that she had reduced staff costs to sales ratio from 10% in March to 7% in July. As a result, she had received a bonus which managers are entitled to good performance. Moreover, during training and remerchandising conducted at store 58 by the senior representative of the company, Marlene Williams, and other top executives including Linda Coleman and Eva Shipsides on August 7, positive comments were made about the performance of some staff. For instance, Williams described Penner as a very dynamic staff. She also stated that Shynkaruk could be ready to take up managerial role during winter that year. On her part, Coleman noted that Moira Lock was doing exemplary well. Shipsides also praised Brenda Jagt indicating that she could soon become a management trainee. Moreover, both Coleman and Shipsides recognized Karen Bossert because her section was very clean and because she had special cashiering skills. In a nutshell, virtually all the staff in store 58 were recommended for good performance during remerchandising and training that happened a few days before firing. So, the company bears the biggest burden of proof as it alleged that the reason behind termination was poor performance and unacceptable store operations in Store 58.
What conditions would a union have to satisfy in order to become a certified bargaining agent for these employees?
According to Lewin & Gollan (2011), the Union needs to show that at least 45% of the employees in store 58 are in support of union representation. If so, the union should apply for certification to the Alberta Labor Relations Board. The union will then lobby employees to sign membership cards because the board orders a secret ballot voting ten days after application to determinewhether 45% or more employees want to join the union. The Board will then convene a hearing within seven days to determine the effectiveness of certification. Before certification, the Board must ensure that the trade union is defined under the LRC. It also ensures that the employees constitute a proper collective bargaining unit. The Board also checks if the trade union has the required membership support through counting the cast votes. If the applicant trade union meets these requirements, then the Board will exclusively certify it as the official bargaining agent for those employees.
What remedial power does the board have at its disposal in this situation?
The Labor Relations Act gives the Alberta LRB the power to provide remedies to rectify the violation of basic labor practices. In this case, the board has the power to reinstate all the employees of Store 58 dismissed contrary to the Labor Relations Act. It may also order Mariposa Stores Limited to compensate the dismissed employees contrary to the Act. The amount to be compensated should not exceed the amount which the employer would have paid the employees, including the amount of interest if any, for funds borrowed by the employees to support their families during the entire period of dismissal. Moreover, the board also has the power to certify or decline to certify the trade union in question as the official bargaining agent for Mariposa Limited employees (Alberta Labor Relations Board, 2014).
Briefly, in your opinion, did the employer engage in an unfair labor practice? Why?
From my point of view, the employer engaged in unfair labor practices in many ways. Apart from firing the employees of store 58 without a sufficient and good cause, the employer also contravened the Labor Relations Act through firing employees without prior notice or compensating them for the notice period. Additionally, the employer failed to adhere to proper working conditions for the employees. Finally, the employer denied the employees their basic right of joining a trade union.
Alberta Labor Relations Board, UFCW Local 401 et al. v. Mariposa Stores Limited et al.,  Alta. L.R.B.R. 661.
Alberta Labor Relations Board. (2014). A guide to Alberta’s labor relations laws. Calgary, Alta: Alberta Labor Relations Board.
Lewin, D., Kaufman, B. E., & Gollan, P. J. (2011). Advances in industrial and labor relations: Vol. 18. Bingley: Emerald Group.