The Toronto Professional Fire Fighters’ Association’s application for a judicial review of an arbitration award has been dismissed, upholding the Arbitrator’s decision on the calculation of “full net pay” for firefighters on disability leave.
This ruling follows a dispute over the interpretation of a provision in the Collective Agreement between the Association and the City of Toronto.
The disagreement centered around the methodology for calculating “full net pay” for firefighters who are off duty due to occupational illness or accidents and receive workers’ compensation benefits.
The Association challenged the Arbitrator’s decision that aligned with the City of Toronto’s interpretation, which included the deduction of an employee’s notional OMERS pension plan contribution from the full net pay calculation.
Arbitrator Ken Petryshen, in his decision dated July 21, 2022, had agreed with Toronto’s position, concluding that the proposed deduction was consistent with the purpose of the relevant Collective Agreement provision. He reasoned that not deducting the OMERS contribution placed an employee with a disability waiver in a more advantageous position than active duty counterparts, which was contrary to the objective of maintaining continuity of take-home pay.
The Association contended that the Arbitrator’s interpretation was unreasonable, arguing for a paramount consideration of the plain language of the Collective Agreement. However, the court found that the Arbitrator’s interpretation and the outcome of his decision were reasonable, considering common law principles of contractual interpretation and the Arbitrator’s deep familiarity with the parties and context of the issue.
The court emphasized the need for deference to the interpretations of arbitrators, especially those well-acquainted with the collective agreements and the labor relations context they govern. It was noted that a reviewing court should not interfere with an arbitration board’s decision unless the interpretation given to the contract by the board is one that the contract cannot reasonably bear.
Ultimately, the court saw no basis for interference with the Arbitrator’s decision, leading to the dismissal of the application. As a result, the Association is required to pay costs amounting to $7,500 to the City of Toronto.
For more information, see Toronto Professional Fire Fighters’ Association v. City of Toronto, 2023 ONSC 6290 (CanLII)