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Ontario, Canada Labor Relations Board finds Accor engaged in "illegal activity" to frustrate union representation

17 October 2012 Feature
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The Ontario Labor Relations Board ruled on September 27, following an unprecedented 40 months of hearings, that management of the French-based Accor hotel group consistently engaged in illegal activity in its efforts to thwart union representation for workers at the company-owned and -managed Mississauga Novotel. The suit was brought by Local 75 of the IUF-affiliated UNITE HERE.

In 2009, workers at the Accor Novotel Mississauga demonstrated strong majority support for union representation by signing union cards, but representation was frustrated by a concerted management campaign to compel workers to vote 'no'. Anti-union consultants were brought in, captive meetings were held and some active union supporters were intimidated, disciplined or punished through reduced shifts and other forms of discrimination.

In its ruling, the Board declared that "The Hotel's illegal activity was of such a nature that the wishes of the employees cannot be ascertained in a representation vote". The board accordingly took the unusual step of awarding an "automatic certification" granting immediate union status to the 100 workers at the hotel.

Similar allegations of anti-union practices at two other Accor properties in Ontario - the Novotel Ottawa and Novotel North York - are the subject of ongoing Labor Board suits by the union. On October 16, the union filed new charges with the Board alleging that management at the Novotel North York responded to the Mississauga decision with new actions intended to discourage union supporters at that hotel.

In 2010, the IUF made a submission to the French government's National Contact Point responsible for implementation of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, alleging violations of basic rights enshrined in the Guidelines at these Accor properties in Canada and at the Novotel in Cotonou, Bénin. That submission is ongoing - and the ministerial-level National Contact Point has been fully informed of the Labor Board's ruling.

In 1995, Accor signed an Agreement on Trade Union Rights with the IUF. Accor unfailingly promotes its signature on this agreement when communicating to reporting initiatives, ethical investors and social rating agencies. In the Agreement, Accor "undertakes not to oppose efforts to unionize its employees" and guarantees "the right of employees to affiliate to the union of their choice" and "the protection of employees against all acts of discrimination that tend to violate freedom of association"- precisely the practices Accor management was found to have engaged in according to the Labor Relations Board!

Following on this sweeping decision by the Labor Board, the IUF and UNITE HERE call on Accor to recognize the union at the two remaining Ontario Novotels, which are the subject of ongoing legal action by the union. Accor should immediately act to reinstate all workers fired for their support of the union and fully compensate and remove existing restrictions on workers punished for their union advocacy and support. And Accor should reflect the measure of this legal ruling by publicly committing to respect the letter and the spirit of the 1995 Trade Union Rights Agreement with the IUF.