Nickel mine didn’t violate collective agreement when it stopped paying miners for unworked hours: Arbitrator

A nickel mine in Sudbury, Ont., didn’t violate the collective agreement with its union when it changed its compensation practices to reflect the number of hours worked.

Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations/Glencore changed the length of the shift for workers classified as “Miner C.” These employees had worked a 12-hour shift since November 2014.

In 2016, as a result of change to blasting protocols, Miner C’s began working 11.5 hour shifts. But they were still paid for the full 12 hours.

On June 30, 2021, the company changed that practice – announcing it would only be paying Miner C’s for 11.5 hours, the actual length of the shift they worked.

Union grievance

Unifor Local 598 filed a grievance over the change. It argued the company was required to secure an agreement with the union before a shift change can take place.

 It pointed to numerous agreements where the parties have agreed to shift changes, with some of those changes involving a vote among the employees. 

But the arbitrator said there was nothing in the collective agreement that precluded the company from changing the shift from 12 hours to 11.5 hours and compensating the employees for those hours worked.

The “management rights” clause in the agreement reads as follows:

“The Union agrees that the Company has the exclusive right and power to manage the plants and mines, direct the working forces and to hire, promote, transfer, demote or lay off, and to suspend, demote, discharge or otherwise discipline employees for just cause. Provided, however, that the Company agrees that any exercise of these rights and powers in conflict with any of the provisions in this Agreement shall be subject to the provisions of the grievance procedure.”

“After reviewing the collective agreement and considering the submissions of the Union, I conclude that the Company has not violated the collective agreement when it announced that Miner C’s would be compensated for 11.5 hours, the amount of time worked on the shift,” the arbitrator said.

For more information see Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations/Glencore v. Unifor, Local 598, 2022 CanLIII (ON LA).


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