In what appears to be the first decision of its
kind, the British Columbia Labour Relations Board (the
"Board") recently accepted electronically signed union
membership cards submitted in support of a union certification
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (the
"Union") had applied under section 18 of
Labour Relations Code (the "
Code") for certification of a unit of the employer's
However, the Union didn't use the ordinary
pen and paper practice of signed membership cards and opted instead
to use electronically signed membership cards. The cards in
question were created using an e-signature software program,
with mandatory "Name", "Signature" and
"Date" fields, and sent to prospective union members via
email. The recipients could then sign using either a
"draw" function (with finger or stylus) or a
"type" function. In the latter case, the program
automatically converted the typed name into a font which resembled
handwriting. The e-signature program also generated an audit trail
indicating the dates and times at which the blank cards were
created, sent to the recipients, viewed, signed, and sent back to
the Union organizer, and the IP addresses of the devices used at
At the Union's certification application, the issue was
whether the electronic signatures met the requirement in the Labour
Relations Regulation (the "Regulation")
that "a membership card must be signed and dated at the time
of signature". Given the novelty of the issue, the Board
in Working Enterprises Consulting & Benefits Services
Ltd v United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Local
CanLII 29625 (BC LRB) elected to provide written reasons.
Interestingly, the employer did not oppose the certification
Typed Signatures Rejected
The Board reviewed the audit trail and the cards, and commented
that the mandatory nature of the name, signature, and date fields
provided assurance that the cards had been signed and dated at the
However, the Board rejected a card that appeared to have been
signed using the "type" function, commenting that this
card was "no different than a pen and paper printed block
signature in quotation marks".
Demonstrated Reliability and Authenticity
The Board also stated that in future, it would "expect a
similar demonstration" of reliability and authenticity of the
date and signing of cards as that provided by the audit trail.
Interestingly, this seems to set a standard regarding proof of
authenticity that the Board has not historically required for
traditional pen-and-ink signatures. The requirement seems
inconsistent with the Board's comment in the same decision that
"[a] challenge to the reliability of membership evidence must
be supported by evidence of a relatively high degree of probative
value". The Board also took no issue with the Union's
assertion that the Board ordinarily accepts paper forms without
attempting to determine whether the forms were signed by the
individuals to whom the signatures were attributed, or on the dates
The Board also held that the electronic signatures in this case
complied with British Columbia's Electronic Transactions
Act (the "Act"). The Act itself does not include an
audit requirement; it expressly provides that "[i]f there is a
requirement under law for the signature of a person, that
requirement is satisfied by an electronic signature". The
question of whether the Board's requirement for an audit trail
is consistent with the Act may arise in future litigation.
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