One of the topics that gets glossed over in this sort of introduction is that, sometimes, what the law means (in practice) isn’t clear. Or, at least, an employer and worker/union might have a different interpretation of what the law required or permits. This can reflect legitimate differences of opinion, differing interests, and, sometimes, apparent conflict between rules from different sources of law. In the interests of time (and understanding that a survey course is just an introduction), we tend to wave this complexity aside with “disputes are remitted to an adjudicative body for resolution.”
Sometimes, it is worthwhile having a look at a case to see just how this adjudication works. As part of a research project, I came across an interesting arbitration decision from 2009 that is a fun read. The decision is:
Edmonton Space & Science Foundation v Civic Service Union 52, 2009 CanLII 90156 (AB GAA)
You can find the decision on canlii.org by searching the CanLII number (90156). CanLii is an excellent repository of Canadian law.
The basics facts are these:
- A worker was employed at the Edmonton Space and Science Centre and was a part of a union.
- The collective agreement permitted the employer to terminate a worker only when the employer had just cause. This is much more restrictive than the termination provisions set out in the Alberta Employment Standards Code (wherein workers can be sacked for no reason so long as notice is provided).
- The worker resigned, giving a month’s notice. The employer doubted how diligent she would be in performing her duties during the resignation notice period and purported to terminate her with one week’s notice under the Employment Standards Code.
- The worker grieved that the employer had no right to do so, given the collective agreement limited terminations to just-cause scenarios.
- Was the griever terminated without just cause by the employer?
- Can the employer rely upon the Employment Standards Code to override its obligations under the collective agreement?
This decision is a good example of how employment-law sausage is actually made when the parties can’t agree and when there are multiple sources of rights that may conflict.
-- Bob Barnetson