CANADIAN RAILWAY OFFICE OF ARBITRATION
& DISPUTE RESOLUTION
CASE NO. 3751
CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAY COMPANY
The assessment of 25 demerits for with respect to her work record and resultant termination of Roberta Strachan for accumulation of demerits in excess of 60.
UNION’S STATEMENT OF ISSUE:
Roberta Strachan was a yard
The grievor was required to provide an employee statement with respect to this period of time, following which, she was assessed 25 demerits, resulting in her dismissal for accumulation of demerits in excess of 60.
The Company contends that the
grievor has displayed complete disregard for her employment obligations and
that the discipline assessed is appropriate in all the circumstances arid has
(SGD.) R. A. HACKL
FOR: GENERAL CHAIRMAN
There appeared on behalf of the Company:
F. O’Neill – Manager, Labour Relations, MacMillan Yard
R. A. Bowden – Manager, Labour Relations, MacMillan Yard
And on behalf of the
D. Ellickson – Counsel,
B. R. Boechler – General Chairman,
R. A. Hackl – Sr. Vice-General Chairman,
R. Strachan – Grievor
AWARD OF THE ARBITRATOR
This case involves the assessment of 25 demerits as a result
of the grievor’s irregular attendance at work for the period
The grievor booked off sick on
The grievor confirmed that she called the Operations Centre
The grievor was then contacted by the Assistant
Superintendent. He stated in a memorandum that he first tried to contact the
grievor at 14:10 on April 30th at the two numbers that were listed for her when
she failed to show up for work. There was no answer at either number. He then
received a call from the grievor later on that day seeking a leave of absence.
He told the grievor that she was not on a leave of absence and therefore an
extension could not be granted, and one had not been processed for her up until
that time. She was further advised that her current leave of absence request
could not be granted because of crew shortages and that she was expected to
protect her assignment. The grievor then explained that she was in
As noted in CROA 3077, child care responsibilities are important but there is also an obligation on employees, particularly in this industry, to report to work when scheduled to do so. As the Arbitrator stated:
While child care is obviously an important responsibility for any individual, persons holding employment must appreciate that their obligations in obtaining the services of babysitters must be discharged in such a way as to allow them to fulfil their obligations to their employer by faithful and assiduous attendance at work.
Again, it would appear that three occasions of absence were caused by the grievor’s failure to provide for appropriate child care for his children. In the Arbitrator’s view, as important as such concerns must be, they are not a valid excuse for non-attendance at work. Rather, absent extraordinary circumstances, they must be viewed as a failure on the part of the grievor to plan responsibly to allow himself to be available to fulfil his employment obligations.
As further noted in CROA&DR 3549:
This grievance brings to the fore what must be recognized as a constant in any employment relationship, namely the tension between personal and family obligations and obligations to one's employer. Myriad circumstances might influence an employee's personal or family obligations: care for a child, care for an aged parent or another close relative or care for a spouse with a serious medical disability. Other personal circumstances might include parole or community service obligations after sentencing, close involvement with a church or social group, civic volunteering or competitive sports activities, to name but a few.
A railway is, by its nature, a twenty-four hour, seven day a week enterprise. Persons who hire on to work, particularly in the running trades, know or reasonably should know that their hours of work will be irregular and that they will, on occasion, be compelled to change location to protect work as needed. In exchange for meeting those onerous obligations railway employees have gained the benefit of relatively generous wage and benefit protections.
On what basis can a board of arbitration, charged with interpreting and applying the terms of the collective agreement, conclude that the conditions of single parenthood can effectively trump the obligations of employment negotiated by the parties within the terms of their collective agreement? In a world where single parenthood is not uncommon that is not an inconsiderable question. As a general matter, boards of arbitration, including this Office, have confirmed that with respect to issues such as childcare the onus remains upon the employee, and not the employer, to ensure that familial obligations do not interfere with the basic obligations of the employment contract.
The grievor was in my view properly disciplined for failing
to call the crew office on March 21st. Similarly, the grievor is deserving of
discipline in relation to the events surrounding her purported leave of absence
The parties had some differences of opinion as to the grievor’s record but there is common ground that her recorded discipline at the time of her termination stood at no less than 35 demerits. With the additional 25 demerits assessed for the current transgression, the grievor was dismissed for having accumulated a total of 60 demerits under the Brown system.
In the end, this is not a case for adjustment of penalty, the grievor’s 20 years of service notwithstanding. It is evident from a close reading of the facts that the grievor simply dismissed any immediate operational concerns that her absence may have caused the Company. In that regard, she demonstrated a complete disregard for her assignment once her leave of absence had been turned down by the Assistant Superintendent.
The grievor also does not have an exemplary work record. Amongst other disciplinary offences, she was the subject of a lengthy suspension in 2004 for improper timekeeping in relation to a tour of duty. Her attitude throughout this latest incident appears to be one of the Company having to accommodate her interests, be it for child care or otherwise. Her lack of dedication and interest in her work leads to the inevitable conclusion that she can no longer be relied on to work effectively or reliably for the Company on an ongoing basis. There are no other mitigating factors which suggest that a suspension would be an appropriate remedy under the circumstances.
For all the above reasons, the grievance is dismissed.
(signed) JOHN M. MOREAU, Q.C.