Accueil » 37-4 ( 1982) » Le système de gestion de cas du Conseil canadien des relations du travail

Le système de gestion de cas du Conseil canadien des relations du travail

Gilles Coulombe


L'auteur expose les pratiques et les procédures établies pour assurer le fonctionnement efficace du C.C.R.T. ainsi que le système utilisé pour mesurer le rendement des opérations de cet organisme.


The Canada Labour Relations Board Case Management System

Every labour relations board must have a case management System which is suited to its own specific circumstances. In the case of the Canada Labour Relations Board (C.L.R.B.), it must take into consideration the specific enabling statute, the requirements of a vast geographical dispersion of employers and employees (involving a constant necessity for hearings in remote areas) and the facility to provide service in both official languages — simultaneously when necessary. The jurisdiction of the Board covers operations in the Yukon and Northwest Territories which would normally be under provincial jurisdiction as well as such diverse activities as broad-casting, communications, international and interprovincial transportation of goods and passengers by land, sea or air, grainhandling, uranium mining, longshoring and various Crown corporations such as Canada Post, DEVCO, National Arts Centre and Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

The C.L.R.B. has regional offices in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montréal and Halifax staffed by officers who investigate and mediate cases as well as providing information and processing submissions made by parties. These offices are link-ed to the Board in Ottawa by electronic equipment for the transmission of documents. In some cases the employer may be located in one part of the country while the union headquarters may be in another part of the country and a case could involve such things as an unlawful strike in an entirely different location.

In many cases, particularly those involving the acquisition or termination of bargaining rights decisions are made without the conduct of a public hearing. This is accomplished by the report of an investigation officer. Copies of the report of the officer are made available to the parties and they are invited to make written submissions including any challenge they might have as to the accuracy of the report. In certification cases and some other situations, there is a confidential report on the wishes of the employees. This includes verification of union membership cards and a check on the money collected which is traced from receipt of bank deposit. There are spot checks to verify that employees signed of their own free will and where there are any allegations of impropriety there is a more detailed investigation conducted. This information on the wishes of the employees is protected by legislation, but all other material on the files must be provided to the parties in order to ensure that there is no denial of natural justice. Where there are matters of fact in dispute between the parties the Board must conduct public hearings, allow the introduction of evidence and provide for cross examination of witnesses. In 1980, 92% of all certification cases were disposed without conducting a public hearing. This was possible on the basis of the investigation officers' report and the written submissions of the parties.

In certification and similar cases, the Board requires the employer to post notices to employees who may be affected and they may submit interventions to the Board. In some cases dealing with bargaining rights it is necessary for the Board to conduct a secret ballot to determine the wishes of the employees. In national bargaining units and even interprovincial units such as telephone communications, this can involve employees at hundreds of locations widely dispersed. It involves in some cases employees who may be at sea or in the air beyond our national boundaries. Mailed ballots are required in some of these situations.

In cases involving complaints of unfair labour practices or unlawful strike or lock-out applications, the Board is obliged to conduct hearings and provide full opportunity for defence before making a finding that a person has acted in violation of the statute. However, many of these cases are settled without a hearing as a result of the mediation provided by officers of the Board. Apart from providing solutions acceptable to the parties an effective mediation program can save considerable time and money which would otherwise be required for travelling and hearing of cases.

The Board does not, however, permit any mediation as to the composition of bargaining units lest such a practice should result in employees being denied the benefits of the legislation as a result of their rights being traded away in a compromise solution to differences between the parties. The Board does not delegate the authority to determine who is an employee within the meaning of the legislation or what employees should be included in or excluded from a bargaining unit.

The Board is also required to conduct a public hearing before imposing a first collective agreement upon a referral of a dispute from the Minister of Labour. It is up to the Minister of Labour in the first instance to refer such questions to the Board. Upon referral, the imposition of a first collective agreement and its provisions are at the discretion of the Board.

Scheduling of hearings in all parts of the country poses significant problems for the CLRB. It is not always possible to determine from the material on file the length of time that may be required to hear a particular case. If a case runs longer than expected an adjournment could make it expensive for the Board to return to the same part of the country for a continuation and hearings have to be scheduled so as to provide the parties with reasonable time to make travel and other arrangements except in the most pressing of cases. Before the commencement of a hearing the Board may conduct a meeting with counsel or principal representatives of the parties to discuss and identify the issues that are agreed upon and those in dispute and the procedures to be followed. This usually results in co-operation of counsel to expedite the hearing. If however it is not possible to complete the hearing in the time allotted without a denial of natural justice, the Board may be able to hear all the evidence and later dispose of the case as a result of written arguments submitted by the parties.

The Board has to keep careful control of its case load in order to ensure the fastest possible disposition of cases. Priority is given to cases involving continuing loss. Unlawful strike or lock-out applications and cases involving dismissals normally have high priority. However, an unlawful strike application may lose its priority as a result of a resumption of work or successful mediation. This may mean that the schedule may be altered and other cases moved up for hearing.

The Board has a complex System of case control and performance measurement. Weekly reports on priority cases are revised when any changes occur and monthly reports on the disposition of cases are carefully analyzed.

In addition the Board measures performance by analyzing the time it takes to acknowledge and transmit each individual case; the time taken to investigate or mediate, to schedule, to hear and to issue a decision and convey it to the parties. These figures are prepared by regions and by types of cases, and are constantly studied to ensure that no avoidable delays occur and that the whole System is constantly sensitive to the need for the promptest possible disposition of cases that is consistent with the strict observance of the requirements of natural justice.

These figures are examined by regional directors and their staff and are discussed by the Registrar at meetings with the regional directors and at other staff meetings.

The CLRB has the advantage of external evaluation of its performance by many outside observers. Organizations of unions and employers, the legal profession, the academic community and such organizations as the Law Reform Commission are not hesitant to examine and question the operations or decisions of the Board and to prepare briefs or conduct studies on general or very particular matters which may range from proposals to amend the legislation to specific complaints regarding procedures, practices or decisions. These collectively provide a very valuable reflection of the observations of those who are interested in the whole process and knowledgeable of industrial relations.