Home Arbitration/Labour Relations Labour board dismisses DFR case against Health Sciences Association of Alberta

Labour board dismisses DFR case against Health Sciences Association of Alberta

by HR Law Canada

The Alberta Labour Relations Board (ALRB) has dismissed a complaint filed against the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) by a former employee, who alleged that the union failed to fairly represent her during significant employment changes at Alberta Precision Laboratories.

The complaint accused the HSAA of not adequately supporting the complainant when her role was altered to include additional administrative duties. These changes were part of an organizational shift that the complainant felt exceeded her capabilities and previous responsibilities.

In its ruling, the ALRB concluded that the HSAA had acted appropriately and within its rights. The board found that the union had thoroughly investigated the complainant’s situation and made an informed decision not to file a grievance. This decision was based on the union’s assessment that the new duties fell within the complainant’s existing job classification as an Administrative Support V.

The board noted, “The union’s view of the applicability of Article 31 to the Complainant is one a union, acting without bias and in full knowledge of the relevant facts, could reasonably take.” The ALRB emphasized that a difference in interpretation of the collective agreement did not constitute a failure of fair representation.

The case also highlighted the complainant’s argument that the automation of the billing process through Connect Care represented a technological change warranting protection under Article 31 of the collective agreement. However, the ALRB sided with the union’s stance that the complainant was not displaced by this change but was instead reassigned duties appropriate to her job classification.

The board stated, “The Union declined to file a grievance on the Complainant’s behalf because the Union did not see any violation of the collective agreement.”

Throughout the process, the Board found no evidence of personal hostility, bad faith, or discriminatory conduct by the union. The decision to dismiss the complaint was based on the union’s objective assessment and reasonable interpretation of the collective agreement, despite the complainant’s disagreement.

Lessons from this case:

  1. Duty of Fair Representation: This case reinforces the importance for unions to conduct thorough and unbiased investigations when representing their members. Unions are not obligated to pursue every grievance but must ensure their decisions are well-founded and communicated effectively.
  2. Interpreting Collective Agreements: Disagreements over the interpretation of collective agreement provisions, such as those concerning technological changes, need careful evaluation. The union’s reasonable interpretation, even if disputed by an employee, is often upheld if conducted without bias and with proper consideration of the facts.
  3. Handling Job Classification Changes: Employers and unions should ensure clear communication and provide necessary support when job roles evolve due to technological advancements. Adequate training and transparent dialogue can mitigate disputes and support smoother transitions for employees.

For more information, see Complainant v Health Sciences Association of Alberta, 2024 ALRB 52.

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