PUBLIC SERVICE ALLIANCE OF CANADA (PSAC) VS AÉROPORTS DE QUÉBEC INC (YQB)
This grievance concerns a temporary firefighter at the Québec City Airport (YQB), dismissed on November 18, 2016 following his refusal to sign a commitment to accept a full-time position if such a position became available and were offered to him in the future.
In a decision rendered on July 31, 2019, the arbitrator, Mr. Denis Provençal, accepted the union’s grievance, thus cancelling the dismissal of a Quebec City Airport temporary firefighter and ordering the employer to reinstate the member concerned with reimbursement of lost salary and various other corrective actions.
The member concerned had been a regular firefighter at YQB since 2009. In June 2014, following an agreement with the employer, he resigned from his permanent full-time position and accepted an offer of a temporary firefighter position after accepting a full-time firefighter position for the Town of Lévis effective July 2014.
In October 2016, the Fire Chief was assigned the task of evaluating the efficiency of the department and building a succession plan. In the context of this succession plan, the employer decided to establish a new job requirement, by which a temporary firefighter had to sign an agreement committing to accept a regular position if such a position were offered to him. On November 17, 2016, the Fire Chief met with the member to ask him to sign the commitment in question who refused because he held a regular position with the Town of Lévis. The next day, YQB terminated the member’s employment.
During the hearing, the employer invoked the argument that the collective agreement did not entitle temporary firefighters to the grievance procedure, rendering the grievance invalid. It also raised the argument that the employer’s management rights are recognized by the collective agreement and that the new job requirement was covered by these rights. Thus, YQB considered that the dismissal was administrative because it resulted from the new job requirement.
The employer also argued that the grievor was no longer up to date in his training and that he was no longer competent in his functions.
The union indicated that the employer had never questioned the validity of the grievance and the right of temporary firefighters to have access to the collective agreement during the stages and meetings preceding the grievance procedure. It also argued that the succession plan indicates nothing regarding a dismissal in case of refusal to sign a commitment agreement and that, moreover, nothing of the sort, nor the succession plan itself, had been brought to the member’s attention in 2014, when he had discussions with the employer and made the decision to resign from his regular position to return to a position with temporary status.
The union also argued that the commitment required by the employer is not in compliance with the staffing procedures set out in the collective agreement. It submitted that this is vague, that it is unreasonable and that it had never been part of discussions or consultations with the union.
Concerning the question of training, the union pointed out that the employee had enrolled in training in September 2016 and that it was the employer that cancelled his training and subsequently reprimanded him for his delay in his training program.
Concerning the exclusion of temporary firefighters to access the grievance process, the arbitrator explained the obligation to consider the collective agreement as a whole and the interdependence of the different clauses. In the absence of a specific and clear clause indicating such an exclusion for temporary firefighters, the arbitrator concluded that the grievance was valid and therefore the plaintiff was not excluded from the right to grieve.
Moreover, the arbitrator insisted on the obligation to act in good faith, specifying that the employer’s decision to dismiss the member was unreasonable. Indeed, the arbitrator stated that the member had not been informed in June 2014, at the time of his resignation from the regular position, of a commitment requirement as invoked by the employer, despite the existence of the succession plan since March 2014.
Finally, the arbitrator also specified that although the employer reproaches the employee for the delay in his training, the facts show that the employee was available and enrolled in training in September 2016 and that it was the employer who cancelled it. YQB showed that it had already intended to proceed with the dismissal before November 2016 and that it gave itself an additional reason to terminate the member’s employment.
The arbitrator therefore accepted the grievance.
Here is the link to the decision (in French only)