VANCOUVER - Employers who failed to follow a fair and negotiated process to transition employees to a 37.5 hour work week will have to start over, according to an arbitrator's ruling issued this week.
The 2012 – 2014 collective agreement for health science professionals, including 725 CUPE members, includes an extension of the work week to 37.5 hours from 36. Employers were to consult with staff and consider local work site factors when changing schedules. But the process was often ignored, resulting in 1,600 grievances. In many of the cases, part time employees were targeted, and some lost hours. In other cases, employers ignored seniority. Arbitrators Vince Ready and Corinn Bell found that many employers didn’t follow the prescribed process.
The arbitrators set out the process that must now be used to resolve the outstanding grievances to minimize the impact on employees and which listens to employees.
CUPE BC health coordinator Troy Clifford says “the ruling validates our members – now it is up to employers to go back and follow the procedure with respect. The number and scope of the grievances points to how disruptive and upsetting this has been for our members and the patients we serve. Now we have a ruling and now we can move forward. “
The 17,000-member Health Sciences Professionals Bargaining Association had also argued that any reduction in hours to part time employees constituted a lay off, and as such the process violated the collective agreement, but arbitrators disagreed.
Under the process set out by the arbitrators to address the work week grievances, the unions and employers have 45 days to review all the outstanding grievances and employers must review their files, identify where they went wrong, and contact the union to discuss remedies for individual situations. As well, the arbitrators ruled that unions should withdraw grievances that don’t have enough evidence to proceed.
After the May 22 deadline, the parties will jointly compile the outstanding grievances in categories and proceed to expedited mediation/arbitration. The goal is to streamline the process and the decisions will be binding. CUPE representatives will be working with locals 15, 1978 and 4816 and affected members in the coming weeks to compile and complete files for participation in the arbitrated process.