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Unions and pensioners to appeal court decision on pension surplus

On April 11, a Quebec court overruled an arbitrator’s decision that CBC management had to act on a resolution from the Consultative Committee on Staff Benefits dealing with a pension surplus. The CBC’s French and English unions, as well as CBC pensioners, have decided to appeal the court decision.

In 2000, the CBC Pension Plan reported a surplus of more than $600 million. While some of it, $134 million, was refunded, employees and pensioners passed a motion at the meeting of the Consultative Committee on Staff Benefits (CCSB) directing the CBC to distribute a further $202 million to employees and pensioners. The Corporation refused and the unions filed grievances, claiming that management was obliged to follow the direction of the CCSB in circumstances where there was no additional cost to the Corporation. After nearly a year of hearings, arbitrator Denis Nadeau ruled in the unions’ favour.

CBC applied for judicial review of the decision. More than a year after the completion of the court proceeding, Quebec Superior Court judge Jeannine M. Rousseau overturned the arbitrator’s decision.

The unions and the Pensioners Association each sought independent legal advice and all came to the conclusion that the court ruling is flawed. The judge simply retried the case and came to a different conclusion than the arbitrator. However, that is not a judge’s role; labour arbitrators in Canada have broad authority to determine the issues before them, and under Canadian law courts must give them a high degree of deference. This provides an effective method of resolving disputes between unions and employers that does not require the use of the courts.

Justice Rousseau’s decision emasculates the CCSB, stating that the federal Broadcasting Act trumps the CCSB provisions in the collective agreements that were freely negotiated into all of the collective agreements. We do not agree that the Broadcasting Act gives the CBC the right to ignore these provisions when it suits them.

You may recall that the unions and pensioners have filed a similar grievance on the disposition of the 2005 pension surplus. That grievance is still in process.

The next step is to request that the Quebec Court of Appeal reinstate arbitrator Nadeau’s decision. We will keep you advised as proceedings develop.

For more information, contact the Guild (info@cmg.ca) at 416-591-5333 or 1-800-465-4149.

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