Legal Aid Ontario disputes “inaccurate and misleading” claims by Society of Energy Professionals

Published: October 7, 2016

TORONTO, Ont: Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) objects to an inaccurate, incomplete and misleading media release by the Society of Energy Professionals (“Legal Aid Ontario Thwarts Democracy by Refusing to Open Ballot Box at OLRB”, October 3, 2016)

In their release, the Society of Energy Professionals, a trade union, asserts that the ballots in the certification vote of LAO articling students have yet to be counted due to “Legal Aid Ontario’s continued attempts to undermine their employees’ democratic rights” and that despite “repeated requests to open the ballot box, LAO still refuses”.

The truth of the matter is the ballots in the articling student certification proceeding have yet to be counted because the Ontario Labour Relations Board, which is determining the Union’s certification application, has ordered, on two occasions, that the ballot box remain sealed pending the Board’s determination of a dispute between the Society of Energy Professionals and LAO around the composition of bargaining units.

On May 18, 2016, the Board directed that all ballots be individually segregated and not counted until the Board so ordered or the parties agreed. This was followed by a request by the Society of Energy Professionals on July 12, 2016 to open the ballot box prior to the commencement of hearings regarding the articling students. Again, the Labour Relations Board’s decision was that the ballot box would remain sealed, stating:

“The applicant (the Society of Energy Professionals) did not request reconsideration of the Board’s decision in this respect. The responding party is maintaining its section 8.1 objection. That appropriate bargaining unit description remains an issue. The applicant has not provided any basis for the request that the Board direct a ballot count in the absence of the responding party’s agreement.” (emphasis added)

In fact, far from undermining its employees’ rights, LAO was willing to agree to an “off the record” ballot count which is performed by a Labour Relations Officer employed by the Board. LAO has repeatedly offered this type of “unofficial” count of the ballots by a Board officer on a without prejudice basis. Such a ballot count would allow both parties to consider their respective positions in the hearing on bargaining units with full knowledge of the outcome of the vote.

However, the Society of Energy Professionals refused LAO’s offer unless it was agreed that the Union could publicly disclose the results of the vote before the Ontario Labour Relations Board had determined what bargaining unit(s) were appropriate for LAO’s articling students. LAO could not agree to this. As a result, the ballot box has to remain sealed in accordance with the Ontario Labour Relations Board’s order.

Not only is the Society of Energy Professionals being selective with the facts, they are being selective in disclosing their own participation in them. Both sides have agreed that the hearing regarding the dispute around bargaining units will be scheduled to continue after the upcoming union vote for LAO lawyers, which will be held during the week of October 17.

LAO considers this media release by the Society of Energy Professionals to be another example of the Union trying to fight their case in the press rather than having issues determined through a judicial process.

Media requests

Graeme Burk
Communications Advisor Phone: (416) 979-2352 ext. 5208
Cell: (416) 347-7862