Home Arbitration/Labour Relations Two fired workers at CST Canada Coal reinstated with back pay after company ignores arbitration hearing

Two fired workers at CST Canada Coal reinstated with back pay after company ignores arbitration hearing

by HR Law Canada

Two unionized workers who were fired from their jobs at CST Canada Coal Limited in Alberta have been reinstated, with compensation, after their union grieved the terminations.

The arbitration process took a unique turn as CST Canada Coal opted out of participation, ignoring communications regarding the arbitration despite previously engaging in the grievance procedure’s initial stages.

The grievance involved JK, a steam truck operator, and SH, a journeyman welder, who were terminated under contentious circumstances. JK’s dismissal in June 2023 was challenged on grounds of wrongful termination, citing unsafe equipment and lack of proper training.

SH’s termination in July 2023 was disputed as it occurred while he was on approved medical leave, a move deemed in violation of multiple labour and human rights statutes.

The arbitration, led by a single arbitrator appointed by the Alberta Labour Relations Code, proceeded without CST Canada Coal’s participation.

CST Canada Coal Limited engaged with the United Mine Workers of America Local 2009 through the initial stages of the grievance procedure, reviewing and ultimately rejecting the grievances at both Stage 1 and Stage 2.

However, the situation took a turn when the grievances were escalated to arbitration (Stage 3). At this juncture, CST Canada Coal withdrew from the process, failing to participate in the arbitration or provide any explanation for its absence. Despite the union’s efforts to communicate through emails, calls, and official notices, the company remained silent on the matter.

From Nov. 8, 2023, to Feb. 5, 2024, the company’s principal advisor for labour relations maintained regular communication with the union on various labor relations issues but conspicuously avoided all correspondence related to the arbitration of these grievances.

The union’s attempts to engage the company and move forward with arbitration were met with silence, leading to the issuance of a Notice of Hearing. This notice informed the company of the scheduled arbitration via Zoom on Feb. 5, 2024, and outlined that the hearing would proceed with or without the company’s presence.

Despite this clear communication and invitation to participate or seek an adjournment, CST Canada Coal chose not to respond or attend the scheduled hearing. Consequently, the arbitration moved forward without the company, following the union’s request to proceed in light of CST Canada Coal’s persistent non-engagement.

The arbitrator’s decision highlighted the failure of CST Canada Coal to provide just cause for the terminations, noting the absence of any evidence from the company to support its actions. The burden of proof in disciplinary actions lies with the employer, a standard CST Canada Coal did not meet.

As a result, the arbitrator ordered the reinstatement of both workers to their former positions without loss of seniority, accompanied by compensatory damages to cover lost wages and benefits. JK is owed approximately $90,483.24, accounting for back pay and benefits from the time of his dismissal to the ruling, with similar calculations for SH resulting in $49,232.93, after adjustments for mitigation income and lost short-term disability benefits.

Interestingly, the arbitrator noted that “given the circumstances,” the union committed to pay the entire arbitration fee if the company didn’t pay its share. It noted that CST Canada Coal was responsible for half the bill — or $4,698.25 — and that the union would pay the company’s share if it failed to do so within 30 days.

“In the event that the union pays the company’s portion of my account, the union shall be entitled to be reimbursed by the company for the amount it paid of the account which is the company’s responsibility,” the arbitrator said.

For more information, see United Mine Workers of America Local 2009 v CST Canada Coal Limited, 2024 CanLII 12757 (AB GAA).

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