Home Arbitration/Labour Relations UFCW’s handling of meatpacker’s grievance appropriate: Alberta Labour Relations Board

UFCW’s handling of meatpacker’s grievance appropriate: Alberta Labour Relations Board

by HR Law Canada

In a recent decision by the Alberta Labour Relations Board, a duty of fair representation (DFR) complaint against the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada Union, Local No. 401, has been dismissed.

The complainant, a former employee of JBS Food Canada ULC, alleged that the union did not fairly represent him following his termination from the JBS Lakeside meatpacking facility in Brooks, Alta.

The employee’s termination in 2016 was due to alleged performance issues, specifically related to his handling of meat products, which reportedly led to contamination. This termination followed a series of disciplinary actions recorded over the previous months.

Despite these issues, the union pursued a grievance on the employee’s behalf, which included a proposal for arbitration after the employer rejected the grievance through its internal steps.

Union representatives and legal counsel reviewed the grievance, noting there was video evidence — but “nothing on the video that indicates grievor is doing anything wrong.” Despite this, the union eventually recommended settling the grievance based on the evidence and the likelihood of succeeding in arbitration. This recommendation was primarily based on witness statements rather than the video evidence, which did not support the employer’s claims.

In their assessment, the Union detailed the risks involved in moving forward, considering the existing evidence and the context of the employee’s previous and ongoing health issues, which had been partially acknowledged by Workers’ Compensation Board benefits.

After an extensive review process, which included opportunities for the complainant to contest the union’s stance and present additional evidence, the union’s decision was to settle the matter out of court. This decision was rooted in a pragmatic assessment of the case’s merits and the low likelihood of a successful arbitration outcome.

The Labour Relations Board upheld the union’s decision, pointing to the 2000 ruling in Reid v. United Steelworkers of America Local Union No. 7226. That ruling stated that “the Union is entitled to make a wrong decision, as long as it fairly and reasonably investigates the grievance and comes to an informed decision.”

The Board further stated that the union had given the complainant fair opportunities to present his case and had communicated the decision-making process clearly.

In conclusion, the Alberta Labour Relations Board found that the union had adhered to its duty of fair representation and dismissed the complaint.

Key Takeaways from the Ruling:

  • The Union’s decision to settle the grievance was based on a thorough review and a realistic assessment of the evidence and potential arbitration outcome.
  • The Labour Relations Board supports the union’s discretion in handling grievances, provided there is a fair and informed investigation.
  • Clear communication between the union and the represented employee is crucial in managing expectations and understanding the rationale behind grievance handling decisions.

For more information, see Complainant v United Food and Commercial Workers Canada Union, Local No. 401, 2024 ALRB 48 (CanLII).

You may also like

About Us

HR Law Canada is dedicated to covering labour and employment news for lawyers, HR professionals and employers. Published by North Wall Media.