City of Toronto loses bid to force upcoming arbitration hearing with CUPE to in-person rather than virtual

A Zoom meeting in progress. Photo: Anna Shvets/Pexels

An arbitrator has decided that an arbitration hearing scheduled for Feb. 7, 2024, between the City of Toronto and Local 79 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) will be conducted via videoconference.

This preliminary decision comes after both parties presented their preferences on the mode of proceeding for this initial hearing date.

The dispute, which has been ongoing since 2023, revolves around a discharge grievance and involves potentially mounting damages if the city is unsuccessful. The City had expressed a strong preference for an in-person hearing, citing the traditional effectiveness of face-to-face interactions in resolving such disputes.

On the other hand, the Union advocated for a video-conference format, citing health and safety concerns due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation, despite it being in an endemic stage.

The arbitrator, in their decision, weighed various factors including the nature of the issues to be addressed, health and safety considerations, labour relations implications, fairness, accessibility, and the cost, time, effort, and convenience related to the mode of proceeding.

While acknowledging the City’s preference for in-person proceedings, the arbitrator found no compelling advantage in meeting physically for the med/arb (mediation/arbitration) process scheduled for Feb. 7. The decision also considered the comfort of participants, the effectiveness of mediations conducted via video-conference, and the lack of specific health risks to participants.

If mediation and arbitration on February 7 are unsuccessful and further proceedings are necessary, the mode of proceeding for the additional hearing days in April will be determined at a later date.

For more information, see Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 79 v City of Toronto, 2023 CanLII 103274 (ON LA)

Author