Derek Achong

A former RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) Limited employee and his trade union have won their lawsuit over a decision by the Registration, Recognition and Certification Board to deny him access to the Industrial Court because the union did not have a bank account.

Delivering a short judgment on Monday, High Court Judge Joan Charles upheld Mitoonlal Persad and the Sanctuary Workers’ Trade Union’s lawsuit against the board, which certifies recognised majority trade unions.

The lawsuit centres around Persad’s interest in pursuing a trade dispute against his former employer over his dismissal/termination of his employment.

In November 2019, the Ministry of Labour issued a certificate of unresolved dispute and referred the issue of whether Persad was in good financial standing with the union to the board.

Persad and the union sued the board after it ruled that Persad was not in good standing because the union did not have a bank account.

In the lawsuit, Charles had to determine whether the board was allowed to introduce a practice note requiring a union to have a bank account.

Charles noted that Section 34(3) of the Industrial Relations Act (IRA), which states that the board should be satisfied that a union followed sound accounting practices and the worker had made union contributions at least two months before initiating a trade dispute to find that a worker is in good standing.

In her judgment, Charles ruled that the IRA did not give the board the power to create regulations altering the terms of Section 34.

While she accepted that the board had the power to create rules to regulate its procedure, she noted that this did not extend to amending or modifying the IRA.

“In my view, the effect of the defendant’s requirements that the claimants comply with its Practice Note was to debar any trade union from operating without a bank account when this was not prescribed by the Act which provided only that the worker be ‘a member in good standing’ and that the union of which the worker is allegedly a member has followed ‘sound accounting procedures and practices,” Charles said, as she ruled that the policy was illegal.

Charles also ruled that the board acted unfairly by deciding without giving the Persad and the union an opportunity to be heard.

“There was a failure on the defendant’s part to advise the claimants that the absence of a bank account or the seeming breach of the second claimant’s rules were of concern and could lead to an adverse finding that the second claimant had no exhibited sound accounting practices,” Charles said.

Charles also rejected the board’s claim that the High Court did not have the jurisdiction to review its decision under the IRA.

“I have already concluded that the defendant acted ultra vires its powers and in breach of the Rules of Natural Justice. In the circumstances, I hold that the court’s jurisdiction is not ousted,” she said.

As part of her decision in the case, Charles ordered the board to pay Persad and the union compensation for the breach and their legal costs for pursuing the lawsuit, which are to be assessed by a High Court Master at a later date.

Persad and the union were represented by Jagdeo Singh, Dinesh Rambally, Kiel Taklalsingh, Stefan Ramkissoon and Rhea Khan. Nadine Nabie, Daniella Boxhill and Avaria Niles represented the board.