On March 24, 2020, in CUPE Local 7800 v. Hamilton Health Sciences, Arbitrator Elaine Newman ruled in the Union’s favour, confirming that in a combined bargaining unit consisting of both full and part-time employees, Hospitals must offer retirement and voluntary exit packages to all employees in the classification, whether they are full-or part-time, regardless of whether the notice of layoff is served to a full or part-time employee.
The Arbitrator found that the language of Articles 9.08(B) (early retirement) and 9.08(C) (voluntary exit) is on its face clear and unambiguous. Both require that packages be offered to employees in “the classification” where layoffs would otherwise occur prior to issuing notices of layoff. Neither Article permits the Hospital to distinguish between full and part-time employees. What’s more, the Articles in question appear within a collective agreement that clearly distinguishes between items that are intended to apply to full-time employees and those that are intended to apply to part-time employees. In this context, the fact that Articles 9.08(B) and (C) fail to distinguish between full and part time employees supports the conclusion that the bargaining parties did not intend for such a distinction to apply.
The Arbitrator acknowledged that this interpretation of Articles 9.08(B) and (C) was at odds with their purpose, which she found to be promoting job security and reducing the impact of layoffs. She held, however, that acknowledgement of a general purpose cannot overrule plain language, and that “the language can not be contorted to achieve the limitation that the Hospital seeks.”
In the result, although these particular grievances were dismissed due to an estoppel (this particular hospital had an established past practice of distinguishing between full and part-time employees for the purposes of Articles 9.08(B) and (C)), the Arbitrator interpreted central language in the Union’s favour.
The central implications of this Award cannot be understated. As a result of this Award, it is now clear that Articles 9.08 (B) and (C) require the Hospital to offer packages to all employees in the classification of the intended layoff, whether they are full- or part-time.
We would like to thank Local 7800 for bringing us this important case, and as always, we commend our counsel, Mark Wright and the team at Goldblatt Partners LLP, for their invaluable representation.