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October 1, 2014Alan Willaert - AFM Vice President from Canada
AFM Local 145 (Vancouver, BC) has been removed from trusteeship and control of the AFM according to a September 11 BC Supreme Court ruling. The trusteeship and controversy began in June 2013, when it was discovered that Local 145 had entered into an agreement with the owner of Vancouver Film Orchestra (VFO) in relative secrecy, and without the written permission of the AFM international president’s office, as required by the AFM Bylaws.
The agreement between the local and VFO allowed for fees significantly below national rates, reduced demo rates, and a buy-out for new use in subsequent video games. The AFM removed Local 145 officers and board members from office and placed the local in trusteeship June 2013. Possible fines and disciplinary action proceedings were held in abeyance pending the outcome of proceedings before the Labour Relations Board and Supreme Court.
Under AFM Bylaws, Local 145 had no authority to negotiate its own agreement. The local defended its action by contending that the union bylaws were in conflict with provincial labour law. In her ruling, Madame Justice Carol Ross said that the bylaw should not apply to the BC local because it ran counter to the overall aim of the association’s ultimate purpose, acting as a collective bargaining agent, and pushed it outside the provincial labour code.
Bruce Laughton, lawyer for the AFM International Executive Board said the AFM is considering an appeal. “They were very surprised that in BC—as opposed to every other jurisdiction they operate in, in Canada, as well as the States—the court would find a bylaw, that has been in place for a long time, and to which everyone agreed to, to be inoperable,” he says.
After years of dialogue and debate, Local 406 (Montreal, PQ) (La Guilde) and the AFM were very close to entering into a “Service Agreement,” which would have provided $170,000 from the AFM in additional funding to help fulfill Local 406 obligations under Provincial Status of the Artist legislation. At the last moment, La Guilde’s administration added an additional demand—for total autonomy, thus torpedoing the discussions and revealing the administration’s actual agenda—disaffiliation.
As posted on La Guilde’s website, on or about September 16, Local 406 filed a request in Quebec Superior Court to obtain a declaratory judgment. The essence of what La Guilde’s administration has asked for is a ruling that would permit La Guilde’s administration to ignore its own bylaws and the AFM’s in order to convert the recent disaffiliation survey into an actual vote for secession from the AFM. In other words, after having failed to provide proper notice of motion to the membership last December, and then failing to achieve the two-thirds majority required by La Guilde’s bylaws to amend the bylaws to effect dissolution, La Guilde’s administration now wants the court to say that those rules don’t matter. Indeed, the administration wants the court to say that a razor-thin majority (53.3%) is good enough to impose a drastic change on the local and that the other nearly half of the membership who voted the other way do not count.
Once the Canadian Office was served with the court documents, and it became clear that La Guilde’s administration was prepared and determined to completely disregard its own bylaws, the AFM International Executive Board (IEB) had no choice but to place La Guilde under trusteeship, as per Article 5, Section 70 of the AFM Bylaws. Emile Subirana was carefully selected as trustee because of his 15 years of experience managing La Guilde’s affairs, knowledge of Quebec laws and obligations, and his ability to communicate in multiple languages. To be clear, his position is not a candidate for president, but an AFM guardian to direct Guilde staff and affairs until such time as an election could be held.
On September 18, a court bailiff, Subirana, and I arrived at La Guilde offices to serve the trusteeship letter from AFM International President Hair, and gain access to and control of the local. We were denied entry, and the letter from the president was ignored. That afternoon, we attended a court hearing whereby the AFM made a motion for an interlocutory and provisional injunction to compel La Guilde to comply with the president’s order in accord with La Guilde and AFM bylaws. Justice Hamilton ruled, in essence, that since the parties would be back in court for La Guilde’s motion shortly, he saw no emergency situation that would warrant an injunction at this time. However, he reserved the right for the AFM to apply again if La Guilde violated additional bylaws or failed to meet its obligations as an AFM local. The situation therefore is status quo, in that the local and the AFM will maintain their relationship and service to the members. Our office will endeavour to keep you updated as events unfold. In addition, please visit www.cfmismyunion.ca.