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“Wrongful Refusal to Reassign” Claim Dismissed
August 21, 2009

An arbitrator recently dismissed a union’s claim that the employer wrongfully refused to reassign employees to another worksite during a strike.

The locale of the grievance was the Britannia Centre in Vancouver. The Centre has a “school side” and a “community side”. The school side is owned and operated by the Vancouver Board of Education. The community side is owned and operated by the City of Vancouver. Custodial services for the community side are supplied by the Board to the City. The grievors, members of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 963, were custodial workers employed by the Board to perform work on the community side.

During the 2007 CUPE strike against the City, CUPE established a picket line at the community side of the Centre. The grievors refused to cross another union’s picket line and lost work and income as a result. The IUOE claimed the Board was required to reassign the grievors to another, unaffected worksite based on an alleged commitment by the Board to do so.

The arbitrator concluded there was no violation of the collective agreement and dismissed the grievance. He rejected the union’s claim that two casual conversations between a manager and the union amounted to a binding commitment to reassign the employees in question. The arbitrator found the conversations were quick, informal exchanges which did not amount to an enforceable commitment.

(Click here for link to Decision)