Friday 17 October 2014

Saskatoon Transit: the results are in

Unfortunately I don't have time for a lengthy blog post regarding the Labour Relations Board's order ending the City's lockout of its transit workers. But I did want to post something about it; after all, I've been waiting for this Order for a while.

First, I should note that we don't have the Board's reasons as yet. The Board (as I thought they might) clearly made it a priority to release its decisions quickly. So we have an Order, but not the reasons for why that order was made.

In any event, here's  thumbnail sketch of what the Order says. I'm paraphrasing here; this isn't the actual text of the Order, obviously.

  1. The ULP filed in April was "pending" for the purposes of s. 6-111(2)(a) of the SEA. The Board had considered (remember the "deemed pending" section?) the file during an "in camera" meeting on June 3, and it was therefore pending from June 3 to October 3 (the date of the hearing and Order in that matter).
  2. As a result three actions by the City were found to have been illegal: the lockout notice, the lockout itself, AND the unilateral changes to the City pension plan.
  3. The ULP from April (the Board found) is no longer pending.
Wow. Pretty much a solid win for the ATU.

What does that mean? Well, the Board goes on to order:

  1. The City must end the lockout.
  2. The City must pay compensation to the locked out workers for the period during which the said application was pending before the Board.
  3. The City and the ATU are to meet to discuss the quantum (amount) of monetary losses arising from the lockout (and which the City must pay), with leave to return to the Board for a ruling if they can't reach agreement on that point.
  4. The Board does not make any definitive Order on what happens to the changes to the City pension plan. Rather, the City and the Union are to make further submissions to the Board on this issue.
Pretty straightforward, but there are a couple of points here. First, note that the compensation does not appear to be full back pay for the locked out workers from September 20th to today. Instead, it seems to be compensation only up to October 3. A Solomonic decision by the board - a victory for the Union, for sure, but some comfort to the City that the locked out workers will only get around two weeks' back pay, rather than a month's. As I discussed previously, full back pay would have given the Union a big advantage in bargaining. This decision certainly helps the Union's position, but it looks like the workers are still out their pay from October 4 onwards.

The question of what the Board can do regarding the City's changes to its bylaws re; the pension plan is another open question. Further argument will be forthcoming; the Board has broad powers to order a variety of remedies but it may not have the power to order the City to re-amend a Bylaw. We'll have to see what happens there.

Finally, this doesn't resolve the question of the appraisals of the pension plan; or the merits of each side's position. And the City could now re-lockout its workers, if it wished. This was a win for the ATU, no question, but labour unrest may yet continue.

As I touched on previously, the City has no right to "appeal" the decision as such, but they can apply to the Court of Queen's Bench for "judicial review". In that case the Court has the jurisdiction to decide whether the Board's decision was "reasonable" or not, and the Court should, generally speaking, defer to the LRB on matters within the Board's jurisdiction. Doesn't mean a Court won't overturn the LRB's decision - Courts can and have done so - but the Board has some latitude in interpreting its governing legislation (the SEA). Again, I don't want to bog down things with a discussion about administrative law principles, but suffice to say the City has the right to put this decision before the Courts. I'm not sure it would be to anyone's benefit for the City to do so, but we may see further litigation on this point.

1 comment:

  1. Keir thanks for your comments on the situation. As a daily user of transit, a transit spouse, and a member of another union, I am anxiously waiting for resolution. Your commentary that simplified the labour situation from the legal point of view made me hopeful!