CP arrest of pickets unlawful, union says
Published: June 1, 2007
Source: Vancouver Sun
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Striking CP Rail workers are taking the company to court and to the Canada Industrial Relations Board alleging unlawful arrest and unfair labour practices after six pickets were arrested by CP police on Tuesday.
The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference Maintenance of Way Employees Division -- which represents the 3,200 striking maintenance workers -- and the six arrested individuals seek damages for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and assault, as well as an injunction to prohibit the Canadian Pacific Railway Co. from unlawfully arresting its members.
The TCRC is also asking the Canada Industrial Relations Board to declare that the actions of CP constitute unfair labour practices.
"It's been many years since we've seen this kind of misconduct and mistreatment of peaceful pickets [in this province]," the union's lawyer Leo McGrady said in an interview.
The alleged mistreatment, captured on videotape and shown at a news conference hosted by the TCRC on Thursday, involves the handcuffing and arrest of the six members by CP police at CP's yard in Port Coquitlam, including forcing one picket to the ground.
Jim Sinclair, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, called the behaviour "outrageous."
The B.C. Federation of Labour will be seeking a public inquiry into the role of private police forces, Sinclair said at the news conference.
"When I saw the video and heard what happened, it's so far out of the ordinary it really does require a hard look," Sinclair said in an interview after the conference. "CP Rail doesn't get to decide what's legal and what's illegal in this country."
So far the court has taken "a very measured approach" to the strike, McGrady said.
CP has been to court twice seeking injunctions to limit union picketing. On May 18, the B.C. Supreme Court turned down the application but ordered that the court's reasons be provided to picket line captains. Last week CP brought another application which was successful with respect to CP's intermodal facility in Pitt Meadows but was refused for its other locations in B.C. The company's request for an enforcement order to enable the RCMP to act on the injunction was also turned down.
"So CP then just goes in and uses its own private police force to do essentially the same thing plus more," McGrady said.
"We think that the use of a private police force in this fashion by a struck employer is appalling," he added.
CP spokesman Mark Seland said the CP police force was publicly accredited, unlike a private security firm. "Their primary accountability is to the public and community safety and the protection of customers' valuable products," Seland said.
"But when it comes down to it, we do need to protect our business and our customers' interest," he added.
Seland said the arrests came only after five warnings had been given to the pickets to move out of the way to let a truck access the yard. "The last thing [the CP police] want to do is arrest their colleagues," he said.