Courtenay RSMC Reinstated after Unjust Dismissal!

A Courtenay RSMC has been reinstated to her employment as a result of an arbitration ruling dated October 21, 2008. Betty McCann, who had worked as a RSMC for fourteen (14) years, was discharged last November on the grounds that she failed to find a replacement worker to cover her route while on an approved period of sick leave. According to Canada Post, Ms McCann failed to provide a replacement worker despite repeated warnings, threats of discharge and a final written opportunity, thereby providing just cause for her discharge.

Under the terms of the Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers Collective Agreement, RSMCs are required to take the necessary measures to have a qualified replacement cover their routes for the duration of an absence. The Collective Agreement also states that an RSMC who has made every reasonable effort to do so shall not be disciplined. As was evident during the course of this hearing, the parties have very different perspectives on the definition of what constitutes a “necessary measure”.

In the facts of this case, Ms McCann conscientiously secured the commitment of a replacement worker prior to commencing her sick leave. While in the presence of a shop steward, she conveyed this information to Courtenay Superintendent Arlene Evans. However, just as soon as the Grievor commenced her sick leave, Evans proceeded to author a series of letters threatening discharge, claiming that McCann had failed to find a replacement. In the meantime, McCann’s replacement covered her route until he quit the coverage two weeks later because of a pay dispute with Canada Post.

Local Manager Ken Podritske, whose role in this affair was notable in that it was he who had specifically refused to pay the Grievor’s replacement for the compensation owed to him (and who agreed at arbitration that he had no first-hand information relating to McCann’s communications with Evans) subsequently decided that “enough was enough” and discharged the Grievor from her employment.

In his award, Arbitrator Colin Taylor first dealt with the issue of credibility. In assessing the Corporation’s claims, the Arbitrator accepted the evidence of the Union’s witnesses, which included the testimony of the replacement worker who agreed to the coverage of McCann’s route and the shop steward who was present as a witness at the time that Evans was notified of the arrangements regarding her replacement.

Arbitrator Taylor then cited with approval the analysis set out in a 2006 arbitral ruling by Arbitrator Peltz, finding that the Grievor fulfilled her obligations under the Collective Agreement by securing a replacement worker and was under no residual obligation to find an additional replacement worker after her replacement quit the coverage of her route.

In his ruling, Arbitrator Taylor ordered that the Grievor was to be made whole with respect to all lost wages and benefits. Canada Post was further ordered to reinstate McCann to the route that she held at the time of her discharge.

Several months prior to her discharge, the Grievor testified at arbitration after Canada Post refused to pay her for overtime she incurred while performing her duties. Following that testimony, it was determined that Canada Post had violated the Canada Labour Code.  As a result,the Corporation was ordered to compensate Ms McCann and several of her co-workers for the overtime that they had incurred. Is it possible that there may have been a connection between the Grievor’s successful overtime claim and her subsequent discharge? Only Courtenay RSMCs know for sure.

Welcome back, Betty!

Ken Mooney
Grievance Officer