Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 27 v. Greater Essex
County District School Board (Retired Employees' Rights
Grievance)  O.L.A.A. No. 298
On July 14, 2014, Ontario Labour Arbitrator Thomas Kuttner was
asked to decide whether the Greater Essex County District School
Board (the "School Board") was required to provide the
Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 27 (the
"Union") with the contact information of retirees who
were receiving benefits from the School Board. Specifically, the
Union sought the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the
retirees or their surviving spouses. The retirees in question were
former custodial and maintenance workers of the School Board who
had been members of the Union until their retirement.
The Union requested this information in the context of a
grievance challenging changes the School Board proposed to make to
the retirees' health benefits. Previously, the School Board
provided and paid for health benefits for life for retirees. In
2013, the School Board changed this policy. As of August 31, 2014,
it would no longer pay for their benefits. The Union started a
The Union, however, did not have the retirees' contact
information. It requested this it from the School Board. Access was
refused on the basis releasing it would be a breach of privacy.
At the start of the policy grievance, the Union asked the
arbitrator for a ruling requiring the School Board to provide this
information. The Union argued that it needed this information to
fulfill its duty to represent the retirees. The Union acknowledged
that its request raised privacy concerns, but argued that the
exception for legal proceedings related to labour relations found
at section 52(3) in the Municipal Freedom of Information Act
("MFIPPA") applied to allay those concerns.
The School Board, on the other hand, argued that unless the
Union was successful in its grievance the information was
irrelevant and the request premature. Additionally, the School
Board argued that due to the privacy concerns involved, the
arbitrator should deny the request.
Arbitrator Kuttner found that the information sought by the
Union was personal information under section 2(1) of MFIPPA. As such, the issue before him
was whether the disclosure of the personal information by the
School Board to the Union was "for a purpose for which it was
obtained or compiled, or for a consistent purpose" as required
by sections 31(b) and 32(c) of MFIPPA.
The arbitrator relied on the Supreme Court of Canada's 2014
decision in Bernardv. Canada (Attorney General). That case dealt
with an analogous issue in the context of federal privacy
legislation: a non-union employee, who was subject to the
collective agreement, objected to the transmission of her personal
information to the Union. The Union argued it required this
information to fulfill its representational role. The Supreme Court
agreed, and found that disclosure of this information by the
employer to the union was permissible under s. 8(2)(a) of the Privacy Act as the use by the union was
consistent with the purposes for which it had been collected.
Accordingly, Arbitrator Kuttner found that the School Board
ought to disclose the retirees' personal information under
MFIPPA. The Union required the contact information to fulfill its
representational role. As such, the Union's use of the personal
contact information to contact retirees regarding the grievance was
consistent with the purposes for which the School Board collected
Although Arbitrator Kuttner required the disclosure of the
personal information, he imposed certain conditions: the use was
limited for the purpose of contacting retirees about proceedings
under the collective agreement, the personal information had to be
kept in a secure password protected database, and the personal
information could not be further disclosed.
These decisions seem to establish that unions will be entitled
to receive the personal information of the employees or retirees
they are required to represent. However, unions will have to
respect certain conditions including: maintaining the information
in a secure location and using it only for the purpose exercising
its representational role.
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