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Nurses' raids on rival union struck down by LRB

A long simmering feud between two of the province's biggest health care unions was ended, at least for now, by a ruling from the B.C. Labour Relations Board on June 18.

In a sweeping judgment, the government regulator struck down seven separate raid applications made by the BC Nurses Union, which had sought to replace the Hospital Employees Union as the union representing licensed practical nurses in BC.

"Today's ruling confirms what the vast majority of LPNs have told us all along -- they want to remain united and independent within HEU, where they can continue to advocate for their own, unique professional interests," said HEU secretary-business manager Judy Darcy in a press release from her union's office.

"In dismissing each of BCNU's seven separate raid applications, the Board has made it crystal clear that BCNU could not garner enough support for its raid in even a single health region, let alone on a province-wide basis," Darcy said.

The attempted raids by BCNU saw the nurses' union suspended by both the BC Federation of Labour and the Canadian Labour Congress last year, and saw Linda Silas, the president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, issue a stern letter calling on the BCNU to "uphold both the CLC and CFNU constitutions by ceasing immediately your actions that are found to be raiding under the CLC constitution as per the ruling of CLC president Ken Georgetti, July 30th, 2009."

The raids were also controversial within the BCNU, with some insurgent members of the union circulating a petition in the fall of 2009 that called for a membership vote on the raids, claiming:

"These changes are being rammed through without a membership vote. The BCNU 2009 convention made no decisions, as the leadership chose not to introduce any resolution calling for the LPN sign up. There has been no resolution. There has been no membership-wide discussion. There has been no membership vote."

At the time, BCNU president Deb McPherson told The Tyee that the union constitution adopted in the 1990s mandated the raids and that polling of her membership indicated support as well.

Now, the ruling of the LRB means that the BCNU is prohibited from any further raids on the HEU for 22 months from the date of their original application in November, 2009.

The HEU's Judy Darcy said she is hopeful that today's decision by the LRB will give the BCNU leadership "an opportunity to reconsider their direction and abandon their divisive tactics in the future."

"As colleagues in health care, HEU and BCNU members share common values and objectives that are worth preserving," Darcy said. "Now it's time to focus on the work that unites our members on the health care team."

Tyee calls to BCNU president Debra McPherson and to BCNU communication staff with requests for comments were not returned before this story was posted.

Tom Sandborn is a Tyee contributing editor focusing on labour and health policy.

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