N.L. Labour Relations Board vice-chair will be a commuter

Partner of Eastern Health CEO Vickie Kaminski commits to fulfilling N.L. commitments

Ashley Fitzpatrick afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com
Published on March 19, 2014

Lawyer Brian Gatien, vice-chair of the province’s Labour Relations Board, is committed to continuing in his role even as he picks up stakes to establish a new home in Alberta.

Gatien’s partner is the soon-to-be-former Eastern Health CEO Vickie Kaminski who, it was revealed March 14, is leaving her position with the province’s largest health authority to take up the job of president and CEO of Alberta Health Services. Kaminski’s appointment takes effect June 1.

Kaminski and Gatien discussed what it would mean for them both before she decided to accept the appointment, he told The Telegram Monday.

Gatien was appointed as one of two vice-chairs of the Labour Relations Board in September 2012. It is a five-year appointment.

“There is no provision for terminating that appointment. I could resign. I have a case that I’ve been assigned and I will finish that case. And I don’t intend to resign from the board,” he said.

“I’ve taken an oath to carry out my appointment,” he said, adding he’s committed to completing his term with integrity.

However, he has also committed to moving to Alberta.

“I’m going to operate as if I am in St. John’s,” he said.

“I am moving with Vickie, my gracious Vicks — I don’t think I can live without her — but that being said, I am not going to say to the board, to the government and to the public, ‘I’m now here so you have to pay for my travel,’” he said, explaining he will commute back and forth as required, but not on the public dime.

“I spoke to Sheilagh Murphy, the (board) chair, when the news was coming out about Vickie’s appointment and what I said to her was that I will continue in my assignment with the case that’s before me, I will finish that when that comes about. If there are other instances where it’s an appropriate case to assign to me, then I will certainly do those. I have also said to her that I will conduct myself as if I’m in St. John’s — in other words I am not, at all, going to be putting in any claims for travel from Alberta.”

Gatien said his payment for each day he sits for a review panel in this province is $325.

“I do feel a duty,” he said, when asked why he is continuing his role with the board.

Labour law is not a regular area of practice for a large number of lawyers in the province; Gatien refers to it as a “small community.”

And when it comes to labour relations cases, Gatien said, there is attention paid to even the potential for perceived conflicts of interest.

The board typically reviews disputes between employer and employee representatives in three-person panels, with one representative for each side and the third being a board chair or vice-chair as a neutral party.

Gatien has practised law in the area of employment and labour relations for more than 30 years, having previously worked in Ontario while Kaminski was CEO of the Sudbury Regional Hospital.

“There are some very, very good labour relations lawyers in the province,” he said, when asked about the potential pool of lawyers to follow him in his position at the labour board.

“There is good, deep, broad labour relations knowledge. The difficulty is trying to attract those people to neutral positions,” he said.

Prior to his appointment with the board, Gatien acted as an employer representative on the province’s Industrial Inquiry Commission — looking into the labour dispute between the United Steelworkers union Local 9508 and Vale Newfoundland and Labrador. The union representative for that commission was lawyer Randell Earle, with John F. Roil as chair.