Home Arbitration/Labour Relations Labour board dismisses DFR complaint against Saskatchewan union in case involving inappropriate comments during training

Labour board dismisses DFR complaint against Saskatchewan union in case involving inappropriate comments during training

by HR Law Canada

The Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board has dismissed a duty of fair representation (DFR) complaint from a union steward who was fired after allegedly making inappropriate comments during a women-focused training course.

The complaint was filed by DU against the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU). DU alleged that the union failed to fulfill its DFR in handling his termination grievance.

The case arose following DU’s termination from his positions as a parental care supervisor and a facility youth worker at the Prince Albert Youth Residence, and later as a corrections officer at Pine Grove Correctional Centre. DU, who was also a chief shop steward with the union, claimed that his termination was part of an employer’s plan to oust him, asserting workplace harassment and alleging misrepresentation by the union.


At the heart of the dispute were comments he made during a women-centered training course, which led to his termination. The first was a question: “Are the women allowed bananas?”

The second was a comment that he “was excited to get into the facility so he could see where the blind spots on the cameras were.”

Other allegations included that DU had been sleeping during an Indigenous training component of the course and, according to company notes, that while he denied sleeping he also believed the training was not relevant. At some point, he also allegedly indicated that “we all know about women getting sexually assaulted and abused so we don’t need to be taught that.”

The Union filed a grievance related to his termination, but opted for a case management approach, rather than a full panel arbitration, due to concerns about DU’s potential testimony and lack of remorse.

The Union argued that it had conducted a thorough investigation and made a strategic decision based on DU’s past disciplinary records and the nature of his admissions. They emphasized that the Union’s role is not to secure a preferred type of hearing for a grievor but to represent them fairly and reasonably.

After reviewing the case, the Board concluded that the Union conducted an appropriate investigation into DU’s grievances. They determined that the Union’s approach to the case, including the decision not to interview certain witnesses and to focus on argument over contested evidence, was a reasonable exercise of strategic judgment.

No standard of perfection

The Board’s decision highlighted that a union is not held to a standard of perfection in handling grievances. It must act honestly, conscientiously, and without favoritism, but can make honest errors or exhibit some laxity. The Board concluded that DU did not demonstrate that the Union’s actions were arbitrary, discriminatory, or in bad faith.

As a result, the Board dismissed the employee-union dispute, finding no breach of duty in the Union’s representation of DU’s termination grievance.

For more information, see Upper v Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union, 2023 CanLII 120942 (SK LRB)

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