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Supreme Court confirms reinstatement of fired employee

Supreme Court confirms reinstatement of fired employee
The Supreme Court of Canada has denied the CBC’s application to appeal a 2004 ruling by an arbitrator to reinstate a dismissed employee. The Court is also requiring the CBC to pay the CMG’s legal costs.

“Unfortunately the Corporation seems to consistently take the view that anyone who disagrees with its position is wrong. This also seems to extend to arbitrator’s rulings and the courts,” says Dan Oldfield, senior staff representative of the Canadian Media Guild. “Even after the BC Court of Appeal unanimously confirmed that the arbitrator’s decision was reasonable and within his powers, the Corporation went on to the Supreme Court, incurring tens of thousands of dollars more in legal costs.”

The employee was fired after making an error in judgement, for which he immediately took responsibility and apologized. He also took steps to remedy the situation. The union argued that he should have been suspended, but not dismissed, and offered to settle the dispute before the arbitration began. The CBC refused and then spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to pursue the case.

The original award from the arbitrator now stands, and the employee will receive pay dating back to 2003 and will get his job back.

“We are very glad this issue has finally been put to rest,” Oldfield adds. “Not only is this good news for one of our members, it is also good news for the arbitration system in Canada because it reconfirms the authority of a neutral third party to make a binding decision when an employer and a union cannot reach a resolution in a dispute.”

Unpaid leave “almost automatic” if no operational obstacles
As reported in July, an arbitrator has clarified that the CBC must attempt to meet the needs of employees who seek unpaid leave for personal or professional reasons. If the leave will not create any operational obstacles, the granting of the leave is “almost automatic.”

Arbitrator Stephen Raymond granted the leave of an employee who had been refused. He wrote that the CBC must demonstrate that “we need to do this and in (his/her) absence we will be unable to do so” in order to justify the denial of a leave. Where there are no operational obstacles, the leave does not need to have any benefit to the CBC.

If your request for unpaid leave has been refused, please get in touch with a Guild representative in your location, or call the national office at 416-591-5333 or 1-800-465-4149, or write to info@cmg.ca .

Settlement for employee who was denied additional bereavement leave
An employee forced to take annual leave days to help her elderly mother arrange her father’s out-of-town funeral has reached a settlement with the CBC for two extra days of paid leave.

Employees are entitled to three days of consecutive leave immediately following the death of a parent. The collective agreement states that “travel time in addition to the (three days) may also be allowed depending on the specific circumstances. Such travel time will not be unreasonable denied.” In addition, employees can be granted special leave to deal with family emergencies.

The case was only settled after the union sought to select an arbitrator to hear the case, a year after the additional leave was first requested.

Dozens of grievances slated for arbitration
Despite the hope that the new grievance procedure would allow workplace disputes to be solved locally and more quickly, the Guild is disappointed to report that a very high number of cases continue to get referred to an arbitrator.

The Guild is finding that local managers in many locations are not acting to solve problems, passing them on instead to the national Industrial Relations office.

“The Guild would prefer to see disputes resolved when and where they happen,” says CBC branch president Marc-Philippe Laurin. “The collective agreement allows for creative solutions best negotiated by the people directly involved in the dispute at the local level. Arbitrations are supposed to be a last resort. Unfortunately, they
have become the norm at the CBC, resulting in a lot of wasted time and money for both sides.”

“We are finding that CBC management seems to take a dispute seriously only when it is about to be heard by an arbitrator,” says Laurin. “And despite our best efforts to get these cases heard quickly, management creates delays. This means months ? and sometimes years ? of frustration for the employees involved.”

A total of 98 grievances filed under the latest collective agreement remain open, ranging from disputes about unjust dismissal, to demotion, to denial of overtime. Of the total, 70 have been referred to an arbitrator, including 21 cases related to Job Evaluation challenges where the CMG and CBC management could not agree. In addition, 35 grievances filed under the previous collective agreements remain unresolved.

CMG continuing push to clamp down on abuse of temp and contract hiring
A number of cases have been referred to arbitration where the union believes CBC management is wrongfully denying permanent jobs to employees.

The grievance related to the systematic abuse of temporary hiring, filed last winter, has been scheduled to go before an arbitrator next February. In the meantime, the CMG is open to meeting with management to resolve the dispute.

As well, a number of individual grievances have been filed after non-permanent employees were dismissed or denied permanent jobs where there was available ongoing work.

Another complaint relates to the fact that the CBC has filled nearly all new, ongoing positions as contract jobs, despite what management said it intended to do during negotiations in 2005. At that time, the management team told the country in a full-page newspaper ad that it needed flexibility to hire people who make new shows on contract so that “formats and structure” can be changed quickly.

In fact, employees now work on contract in virtually all job categories, including in maintenance and administration and local news reporters, jobs that were never part of the CBC’s stated contract employment plan.

The CBC is now very close to reaching the ceiling on the number of contract positions it is entitled to have. The collective agreement allows the CBC to employ a number equivalent to 9.5% of permanent employees, plus 80 positions, on contract. The CBC has told the Guild that, as of September 2, contract employees had reached the equivalent of 9.4% of the permanent workforce. The CMG’s calculation puts the number slightly higher: 9.5%, plus 16 positions.

As well, the CBC management is taking the position that work posted as “contract” is not available to employees facing layoff. Several grievances have been filed on this issue.

For more information on any of the foregoing, please get in touch with the Guild (info@cmg.ca) at 416-591-5333 or 1-800-465-4149.


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