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The Ontario Labour Relations Board (the “OLRB”) is considering revamping how it geographically organizes construction bargaining units in Northern Ontario, and is seeking submissions from the public.

Since 1980, the OLRB has consistently recognized bargaining units in the construction sector within 32 pre-defined zones called “Board Areas”. For example, some construction employers operating in London are bound to a union for work in Board Area 3, which encompasses the counties of Oxford, Huron, Perth, Middlesex, Bruce and Elgin.

However, many parts of central Northern Ontario do not fall within a Board Area. These regions are called “White Areas” because they are literally white, unfilled areas on the OLRB’s map of Ontario. Union bargaining rights in the White Areas tend to be defined around township boundaries, a more ad hoc process than the Board Areas used throughout the rest of the province.

The significant growth in the number of municipalities in the White Areas has led the OLRB to re-consider how bargaining units are geographically defined in Northern Ontario. As a result, the OLRB is considering whether to create new Board Areas and/or expand existing ones, all with an eye towards potentially eliminating the White Areas all together.

Any changes the OLRB eventually implements could have a significant impact on construction employers operating in Northern Ontario, particularly those that are not currently unionized. For example, if a union begins a certification application, the elimination of the White Areas could affect the employer’s ability to control the geographic reach of the proposed bargaining unit.

The OLRB is currently accepting submissions from the public on what it should do with both the White Areas and surrounding Board Areas going forward. Submissions must be emailed to [email protected] before January 27, 2017.

The OLRB’s full Request for Submissions can be found here. We will be monitoring this situation closely and will post further updates as developments occur.

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