Over the last few years the employer took the position that there was a deadline for people to get better when they were placed on the disability re-employment list. The disability re-employment list is where our members get placed when they are too ill to work in any capacity. The employer took the position that if these people were not better within one year, their relationship with the employer was over. CUPE disagreed and fought back.
We went to arbitration on the difference, and we won.
The disability re-employment process is described in Article 31.08 of the collective agreement, and this is how it should work:
It provides a two-step process for employees away from work due to illness or disability. When employees have been absent from work for two years, their circumstances are reviewed. If they are not able to return to work at that time or in the near future, their job is posted permanently, and they are placed on the disability re-employment list. While on the disability re-employment list, employees don’t earn vacation credits, sick credits, or designated holiday pay. Employees will be accommodated if they are fit to return to work and/or may apply for vacancies. Employees retain their seniority, which is important when they are returning to work, either through the accommodation process or applying for vacancies.
The employer had taken the position that employees could be removed from the list after one year and have their employment terminated, and they introduced a policy to support their position. In fact, a number of employees was terminated as a result of this policy. The union’s position was that the language provided for the ability of our members to remain on the list until they were able to return to work, with no limit to the time on the list.
The arbitrator, Dan Ish, after hearing what the employer, the union, and several of our members had to say, agreed with us.
His arbitration decision supports the union’s interpretation of Article 31.08 b) ii) as restricting the employer’s ability to limit the right of employees to remain on the disability re-employment list. This arbitration came out of a grievance filed in Region 3, but the award has provincial implications, so all our members are covered by the decision.
Arbitrator Ish further ordered that any employees who lost their employment or were in any way harmed by the employer’s actions be made whole.
The arbitration board notes in the decision that the employer can contact employees to ask them if they wish to remain on the disability re-employment list. If you are in that position and would like some support and additional information, please contact your regional office to speak to a representative.
- Main office: 306-546-2185