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September 17, 2004

LIUNA to amend trust fund agreement

BY GRANT CAMERON

STAFF WRITER

The Labourers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) is going back to the drawing board to reword an agreement that governs use of money in a trust fund created to pay costs related to union organizing activities.

Daniel Randazzo, legal counsel for LIUNA, said Tuesday he was disappointed at a ruling made by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice that the trust fund was invalid because it didn’t have a precise or definite purpose.

However, he said, LIUNA intends to reword the agreement so it is more specific.

“On the ruling we disagree with it, but of course we will abide by it and amend the trust. It (the ruling) says we’re not specific enough. We’ll make it more specific.

“It’s not a big deal or a big concern. We’ll go on from there.”

The fund was set up in August 2003 to pay all legal and related costs incurred in organizing campaigns and related proceedings conducted by LIUNA unions in the Central and Eastern Canada regions.

However, executive members of Local 183 of the Universal Workers’ Union, who are presently involved in a dispute with LIUNA—its Washington-based parent—took exception to the fund and challenged the validity of the trust before the courts.

Local 183 argued that the purpose of the trust agreement was not specific enough and asked for a declaration that both the agreement and trust were invalid.

In a written judgement on the matter, Justice Carolyn Horkins concluded that the trust fund is invalid because the purpose of it is not specific enough.

She said a trustee can not make a responsible determination about whether or not a cost is properly incurred when the boundaries for such a determination are neither definite nor precise.

LIUNA’s Randazzo said the union does not plan to appeal the court ruling but will amend the trust agreement to be more specific.

“With most of these documents you’re trying to find the balance between being specific and being too specific.”

Randazzo said he was surprised that Daily Commercial News found the court ruling worthy of a story.

He said Local 183 likely challenged the fund for political reasons.

LIUNA and Local 183 have been at odds for some time now and have appeared before the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) on several occasions.

Recently, Local 183 fired two of its business representatives because they were not forthcoming when questioned about their communication with LIUNA officials, with the result that the local no longer had confidence in their honesty and fidelity.

Moreover, Local 183 was dissatisfied with their job performance.

On July 12, 2004, LIUNA president Terence O’Sullivan wrote to Local 183, affirming that charges would be brought against the union if the workers were not reinstated.

Local 183 returned the business representatives to the workplace but took issue and asked the OLRB to lift the LIUNA directive.

Mary Ellen Cummings, alternative chair of the board, turned down that request last week.

Meanwhile, LIUNA is preparing to proceed with an internal hearing that will deal with various charges of misconduct and interference levied against Local 183.

Local 183 had asked the OLRB to quash the hearings but the board is allowing them to go ahead.

Affiliates of LIUNA have charged that Local 183 interfered in their jurisdictions.

The hearing is slated to start on Dec. 6.

The charges and complaints relate to the conduct of Local 183 and allege that the local has organized outside its territorial jurisdiction and has interfered with organizing drives of sister local unions.

Local 183 is the largest construction local in North America representing more than 30,000 members.

LIUNA represents 65,000 construction workers throughout Canada and approximately 850,000 members through North America. It has 12 local unions in Ontario.

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