Labour Board issues favorable judgement for CESSCO Boilermakers

Sid Gaasbeek, L-146 Boilermaker locked out by CESSCO, on the picket line in December 2021.

In a landmark decision issued in June 2024, the Alberta Labour Board ruled that CESSCO Inc. violated the rights of its employees by denying their return to work and discriminating against them for exercising their rights under the Alberta Labour Code. 

The saga began on June 28, 2020, when CESSCO Inc. locked out 30 Boilermakers from Local 146 (Edmonton, Alberta). They’d been in bargaining for over two and a half years when the company served its final offer in a collective agreement that reduced wages and pension contributions and gutted seniority language.

By the end of year two of the lock out, the collective agreement was not renewed. The Alberta Labour Code specifies that if CESSCO is to resume operations two years after a collective agreement is not renewed, it must hire L-146 members before hiring scabs.

Local 146 advised its members to reapply for work at CESSCO. Despite the effort, the company claimed it had no available positions then proceeded to hire seven replacement workers in May and June of 2023. Shortly after, Carpenters Union Local 1999 applied to be the certified bargaining agent knowing that CESSCO was in a continuing dispute with the Boilermakers. 

Local 146 then filed Unfair Labor Practices to the Alberta Labour Board against CESSCO for their illegal activities. In its June judgment favoring the Boilermakers, the board issued several directives to rectify the situation.

Within 21 days of the decision, CESSCO must send a letter to the 19 employees who requested to resume work in 2022. This letter must ask if they still wish to return to work. 

If seven or fewer employees express a desire to return, CESSCO is mandated to reinstate them as soon as possible, provided they have the necessary skillset and qualifications. If more than seven employees wish to return, CESSCO will rank them based on suitability for current positions. 

The votes of any employees who were working on Aug. 10, 2023, and continue to work after reinstatement, will be counted in the certification application by Carpenters. If Boilermakers’ ballots are counted, they will defeat the Carpenters’ application. Then Local 146 can re-certify as the bargaining agent and serve a notice to CESSCO to begin collective bargaining.