Policy revised 2021/06/15
Since June 8, 2020, the Labour Relations Board (the Board) has carried out votes required under the Labour Relations Code (the Code) using an electronic voting platform.
Under Step 2 of BC’s 2021 Restart Plan, and effective June 15, 2021, the Board will continue to use an electronic voting platform as the default for conducting votes under the Code. However, it will start to gradually increase the number of in-person votes conducted in the Lower Mainland.
It is in the public interest that the Board slowly increase the number of in-person votes where it can be done safely for members of the public and Board staff.
Nature of the risk
COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus that can lead to severe illness and death. It has particular characteristics that inform the protocols set out in this Revised Policy. In particular, a person may be asymptomatic but still infectious and, in an indoor environment, the risk of transmission increases the closer you come to others, the more time you spend near them, and the more people you interact with.
The risk of transmission at an in-person vote is high unless safety protocols are in place. In-person votes are generally conducted by a Board Officer at an employer’s worksite. The characteristics of the physical layout are highly variable and, subject to this Revised Policy, are outside the Board’s control in terms of layout or the existing safety protocols in place.
In conducting a vote:
- employees are required to line up to wait their turn to vote
- employees and Officers are required to transit through active work environments to reach the physical space that is available to conduct the vote
- the number of persons attending the vote is variable
- votes are conducted by a Board Officer in the presence of scrutineers representing the various parties to the application
- paper ballots and pencils are exchanged
- employees go to a limited number of private polling stations
- ballots may be counted on site by the Board Officer in the presence of scrutineers
Risk modification, but not elimination, can be achieved in four ways.
- physical distancing and occupancy limits to reduce the density of people by:
- directional flow signage, including floor decals and posters
- standing markers that establish safe distances between voters, between voters and scrutineers and between voters and scrutineers and Board Officer
- limiting the number of people permitted to be in the voting room taking into account the size of the room (and the hallways leading to the voting location) and the ability of employees to maintain physical distance while waiting to vote.
- engineering controls put in place by an employer prior to the arrival of the Board Officer and voters, including:
- reconfiguring furniture in rooms (removing excess seating and tables, boxes and other clutter) to establish occupancy limit and social distancing in the voting location
- reconfiguring travel routes that Officers and voters will have to take to ensure to establish social distancing to access to the vote location
- administrative controls such as the rules and guidelines set out in this Policy and the Illness Policy
- personal protective equipment (PPE)
- The Board will provide its Officers with PPE such as non- medical masks, face shields, gloves, hand sanitizing gels, disinfecting wipes and plexiglass barriers.
- The employer, the union, and/or the representative for certain employees, must provide PPE, in particular, gloves and non-medical masks to their scrutineers.
- Employees must wear a non-medical mask or face covering during the vote process.
- Any person who is unable to wear a mask for health reasons must advise the Board Officer in advance.
Policy rules and guidelines
Electronic Voting is the Default
Online electronic voting will continue to be the Board’s default way to conduct votes as an alternative to in-person votes as the best available means of eliminating the risk of transmission and conducting the vote in a timely manner.
Where an online vote is not possible, and an in-person vote in the Lower Mainland is not feasible as set out in this Policy, or at the direction of the Board, a mail ballot vote may be considered.
Requesting an In-Person Vote
On its own motion, or at the request of a party, the Board may consider conducting an in-person vote where it can be done safely and in accordance with this Policy.
A party requesting an in-person vote must also provide particulars as to why an in-person vote should be conducted notwithstanding the risks identified in this Policy. The request must identify what measures can be put in place, in as much detail as is available at the time of the request, to lower the risks of transmission.
Assessing a request for an in-person vote
The request for an in-person vote must be made either at the time an application is made to the Board or, as soon as possible, to the Registrar or the Officer with conduct of the matter.
The Registrar or the panel assigned to the application may, at any time, determine that an in-person vote cannot be done safely and in accordance with the Code.
On receiving a request for an in-person hearing, the Board Officer will contact the employer who, in addition to the information required to provide to the Officer under the Code, must also be ready to provide additional, detailed information to assess the request for an in-person vote, including:
- whether all employees are working at the worksite (i.e. whether some employees are working from home)
- specific details of the Board Officer’s proposed walking route to enter the worksite to conduct the vote with a view to minimizing the distance travelled within the worksite to arrive at the voting location
- the route must allow the Board Officer to maintain a safe social distance of at least two metres from others
- details of the vote location, including a roughly measured floor plan and routes to the location, that show the social distancing of at least two metres can be maintained between individuals attending to conduct or participate in the vote, including within the voting area and any area for lining up to vote
- photographs and/or videos of the vote location and any routes leading to the vote location
- a copy of the existing safety protocols in place at the worksite or vote location, including but not limited to:
- illness policies for individuals in that location
- maximum occupancy limits for the rooms proposed for the vote
- availability of first aid attendants, if any
- location and availability of sanitizing gel stations, disinfecting wipes, washrooms, and building cleaning schedules
- existence of signage, including directional flow and social distancing
- any other information requested by the Officer or any other Board staff
- the means by which this Policy and the Board’s Illness Policy will be circulated to those who may be attending the vote
Where an in-person vote will be conducted, the parties must, prior to the vote, provide the Board Officer with:
- a list of the names and contact information for any person attending, either as a the vote as a scrutineer or that assisted in the set up for the voting location, who is not already listed on the tentative voters’ list established for the vote
- an acknowledgement that all of the parties to the application who are attending the vote, and all participants attending on their behalf, have read, understood, and will comply with this Policy and the Board’s Illness Policy
- an acknowledgement that, as a result of changing or unforeseen circumstances, the in-person vote may be cancelled or postponed at any time. This includes a requirement to disclose to the Board immediately if a person is being tested, or has tested positive for COVID-19 and/or there are any self-isolation orders for the worksite
- an acknowledgement that a breach of this Policy or the Board’s Illness Policy will result in the immediate suspension of the vote, with the issues giving rise to the suspension of the vote to be addressed before a Vice-Chair of the Board
If, on attending the worksite, the Officer determines that the location was not accurately described on the plan or that it is unsafe to conduct the vote as ordered having regard to the physical premises and the number of voters, the Officer will first explore alternatives with the employer and the union.
If there is a delay in the start of the vote, the Officer may adjust the end time of the vote to ensure that the same amount of time to vote is maintained
If there is no alternative location that is safe, as determined by the Officer, they will contact the Vice-Chair who ordered the In-Person Vote to explain any concerns, so that further orders regarding the vote can be made, if necessary, after hearing from the parties.
Conduct of the Vote
Prior to commencing the vote, the Officer will establish maximum occupancy limits for the number of persons allowed in the voting room based on size and configuration and set the appropriate layout in their discretion.
Voters and scrutineers must comply with all directions of the Officer and all signage posted by the Officer.
If an employee or scrutineer presents at the vote appearing to be sick, the Officer may stop the vote and instruct the voter or scrutineer to leave.
Each participant at the vote must:
- confirm that they have read, understand, and state that they are not prohibited from attending at the vote under the Board’s Illness Policy
- prior to voting wash/sanitize their hands using appropriate cleaning practices
- wear a mask at all times
- maintain a minimum two metre distance between all people at all times
- wait at a spot indicated by the Officer for their turn to vote. If no spots are available, they must remove themselves from the area to a location where they can maintain social distance until a spot is available
- comply with all Board and building signage, including a maximum occupancy for elevators
- comply with any other requirements the Board may identify
Any issues arising from the Officer’s direction can be subsequently addressed by the Vice-Chair at the request of a party; but, in the event the Officer determines it is safe to complete the voting process, such request shall not delay the conduct of the vote.
After the Vote
If any person attending the in-person vote develops COVID-19 or COVID-19-like symptoms within 14 days of the vote, or has been asked to self-isolate by a health professional, the employer or other party, as the case may be, must immediately advise the Board and cooperate with the Board and any public health officials.