Home Arbitration/Labour Relations Ottawa Police Services Board wins judicial review over dispute on National Day of Mourning holiday pay following death of Queen Elizabeth II

Ottawa Police Services Board wins judicial review over dispute on National Day of Mourning holiday pay following death of Queen Elizabeth II

by HR Law Canada

An Ontario court has overturned an arbitrator’s decision around whether Ottawa Police should have treated the national day of mourning, declared after the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, as a paid holiday.

The Ottawa Police Services Board challenged the ruling after the Ottawa Police Association (OPA) filed grievances against the board, claiming a breach of the collective agreement. Sept. 19, 2022, was proclaimed as a day of mourning to mark the passing of the monarch, who died on Sept. 8, 2022.

The arbitrator initially sided with the OPA, interpreting the Collective Agreements as requiring the Board to recognize any day “proclaimed” by the Governor General as a statutory holiday. This interpretation granted retroactive statutory holiday benefits to all OPA members for Sept. 19, 2022.

The Board contested this interpretation, arguing that it was unreasonable, as it failed to consider the mutual intention of the parties and led to an absurd result — potentially adding an unmanageable number of holidays each year. The Board highlighted that the OPA had never before demanded a holiday when a day was simply “proclaimed” for symbolic reasons.

In reviewing the case, the court noted that while the arbitrator correctly identified the principles of collective agreement interpretation, she failed to apply them appropriately. The court agreed with the Board’s view that the arbitrator’s interpretation led to an unreasonable outcome, which could not have been intended by the parties. This outcome would result in significant additional expenses for the Board, for which it could neither plan nor budget.

The court cited similar cases, including the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees v. Covenant Health and Association of Law Officers of the Crown v. His Majesty the King as represented by the Treasury Board Secretariat, where a more cautious approach to interpreting collective agreements was adopted, focusing on the parties’ intentions.

Concluding that both the rationale and the outcome of the arbitrator’s decision were unreasonable, the court set aside the decision and dismissed the grievances.

The OPA was ordered to pay the Board costs in the amount of $10,000. This ruling emphasizes the importance of considering mutual intentions and practical implications in interpreting collective agreements.

For more information, see Ottawa Police Services Bd. v. Ottawa Police Assn., 2023 ONSC 6225 (CanLII)

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