Costly crash of Mississauga fire truck warranted written warning, arbitrator rules in siding with city

A City of Toronto fire truck. Photo: jeangill/Getty Images Signature/Canva

A costly accident involving a City of Mississauga fire truck, driven by an Emergency Vehicle Technician (EVT), took center stage in a recent arbitration ruling, resulting in the upholding of a written warning.

On Jan. 26, 2022, while operating a Pumper in a nearby mall parking lot, the EVT collided with a light standard, causing extensive damage totaling more than $50,000 and rendering the pumper truck inoperable.

The incident, attributed to a blind spot issue, raised questions about responsibility and appropriate disciplinary measures.

The arbitration proceedings unfolded with the core facts of the accident remaining undisputed. A comprehensive investigation, supported by a thorough record and accompanied by photographs, provided clarity on the incident.

Worker honest and co-operative

Throughout the investigation, the grievor, in their role as the EVT, displayed complete cooperation and unwavering honesty, which was acknowledged and credited by the City.

In light of the robust investigative record, oral evidence was deemed unnecessary. The matter was primarily tried based on the existing documentation, supplemented by a chart submitted by the Union, which sought to highlight previous incidents of a similar nature.

The grievor, having relatively short service as an EVT in the Mechanical Division and boasting a commendable disciplinary record, was widely respected and valued by the City. Their significant qualifications and extensive experience driving various large vehicles added weight to their position.

Written warning appropriate: City

The City, in its defense, contended that a written warning was the appropriate disciplinary action considering several factors.

It emphasized the public location of the accident, the substantial damage incurred, and the grievor’s forthrightness in taking responsibility for their actions.

The City further asserted that any concerns about training were not raised until later and were irrelevant to the specific circumstances of the incident. Citing Subsection 28 (2) (b) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the City relied on the precedence set by the case of Re Rolland Inc. 1983 CarswellOnt 2471 (MacDowell) at para. 29.

Coaching appropriate, not discipline: Union

However, the Union framed the issue differently, challenging the decision to pursue disciplinary action instead of opting for coaching, as had been done in comparable cases.

It posited that potential training deficiencies might have contributed to the accident, citing subsequent actions taken by the City in support of their claim. The Union maintained that a broader perspective was required, shifting the focus away from individual culpability and highlighting Article 16.06 (d) as a relevant exception to be considered.

Amidst the deliberations, the arbitrator acknowledged that making mistakes and falling victim to blind spots was an experience shared by Canadian drivers across various vehicles.

The consequences of such errors were an inherent part of life. While recognizing the subjective nature of such cases, the Union made a compelling argument in favor of coaching as an appropriate response from the employer.

The arbitrator’s ruling

After careful consideration, the arbitrator deemed the City’s decision to be thoughtful and well-founded.

Various factors, including the extensive damage suffered by the apparatus and the grievor’s track record of honesty, were weighed. No grounds were found to challenge the City’s determination.

Regarding the training aspect, the arbitrator rejected the notion that the City’s subsequent implementation of additional training implied an admission of training-related deficiencies in the accident. The grievor had not made such a claim, leaving any remaining concerns within the union’s purview.

In conclusion, the arbitrator emphasized the City’s recognition of the grievor’s candor and value as an employee. The incident, characterized as a common driving error resulting in significant financial repercussions, was not indicative of a recurring pattern. The purpose of the written warning was upheld, highlighting the gravity of the misconduct. The question of coaching’s viability in achieving the same outcome was deemed irrelevant based on the presented facts. Ultimately, no legal basis was found to interfere with the City’s decision, and thus the grievance was dismissed.

For more information, see Mississauga (Corporation of the City) v Mississauga Fire Fighters’ Association, Local 1212, 2023 CanLII 40743 (ON LA)

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