12/11/07

Ex-UFCW official files lawsuit against UFCW

Wayne Ralph is suing the union he was president of for six years. Ralph had been a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union Local 1252 since 1988, and stepped down as boss in March 2002.

Ralph's claim is that he agreed to step down as president of the local and resign from being employed with the union, in exchange for certain health and welfare benefits, including long-term disability insurance.

The national UFCW and Local 1252, both defendants in the lawsuit, denied the allegations in Ralph's 2006 statement of claim in their response this fall.

He claims the national union and the local agreed to enroll him in a health and welfare plan through to Dec. 31, 2005, and that the local would pay the premiums and enrollment charges.

"Ralph has, for many years, suffered from various health problems, including diabetes, for which he requires certain prescription drugs and medical attention on an ongoing basis," says the statement of claim, filed by St. John's lawyer Chris King of McInnes Cooper.

Ralph claims he sought assurances in phone conversations with a national official that after his resignation he would "continue to be eligible for, and receive if necessary, the same level of benefits to which he was entitled under the group benefits plan as an employee of Local 1252."

At the time, the national union owned the local's group benefits plan, the Atlantic Fisheries Benefit Trust. Ralph claims that on the basis of that assurance, he went ahead and resigned as president.

Two months later, the national union and the local terminated the Atlantic Fisheries Benefit Trust and contracted with Great West Life Assurance Company.

In 2002 and '03, Ralph's medical condition worsened and his doctor concluded he was unable to work.

In March 2004, he filed a claim for long-term disability with Great West Life, and the national union and the local were supposed to send in an employer claim submission for disability benefits, but he claims that wasn't done until July of that year, causing a delay. In September 2004, Ralph's claim for long-term disability benefits was denied "on the basis that he was not actively at work at the time of his disability."

Any obligation the union had to enrol Ralph in the plan was honoured, the union claims, contending that Ralph's argument is with Great West Life, which is not named as a defendant.

Ralph is seeking general damages and special damages for long-term disability benefits.

(thewesternstar.com)

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