CANADIAN RAILWAY OFFICE OF ARBITRATION
& DISPUTE RESOLUTION
CASE NO. 4409 SUPPLEMENTARY
Heard by tele-conference held on August 24, 2015
VIA RAIL CANADA INC.
There is a dispute between the parties concerning the implementation of the decision in CROA&DR 4409 of June 10, 2015.
There appeared on behalf of the Company:
W. Hlibchuk – Counsel, Montreal
B. A. Blair – Senior Advisor Employee Relations, Montreal
There appeared on behalf of the Union:
A. Rosner – National Staff, Montreal
R. Fitzgerald – National Staff, Montreal
B. Kennedy – President, Edmonton
D. Andru – Regional Representative, Toronto
AWARD OF THE ARBITRATOR
1. A conference call was held on August 24, 2015 to address the urgent matters arising from the award in CROA&DR 4409.
2. As a consequence of that call, various directions were issued. Among them was the requirement that the Company send a written communication to all VIA employees and retirees represented by the Union to advise that, under CROA&DR 4409, free transportation privileges for spouses/partners and dependents of all active or retired employees for economy bookings has been reinstated effective from when those privileges were withdrawn. The parties were given an opportunity to agree the wording of the communication. They have not been able to do so.
3. I have considered the parties’ proposals as to what should be in the communication. I direct that the Company issue the following communication to all VIA employees and retirees:
TO: All employees represented by Unifor and retirees formerly represented by Unifor
RE: VIA Rail free transportation privileges (rail pass program)
Dear (name of addressee),
On August 4, 2015, an arbitrator ruled that VIA Rail restore the free transportation privileges for spouses/partners and dependents that existed in VIA’s Rail Pass program prior to the introduction of its new program on March 26, 2015.
On August 14, 2015 VIA Rail issued a communication to all employees outlining the financial impact of both programs taking into account the tax consequences of each program. On August 24, 2015 the arbitrator required VIA Rail to issue the following communication.
Please take note that spouses (or common-law partners) and dependent children of employees and retirees of VIA Rail are entitled to free transportation privileges in Economy class, in accordance with the Corporation’s program in existence prior to March 26, 2015.
Therefore, the Corporation will, upon an employee’s or retiree’s request, reimburse the amounts paid for travel by the spouse (or common-law partner) and dependent children after March 26th, 2015.
It may take some weeks until the online and telephone booking systems are corrected. If Economy travel is booked for spouses/partners or dependents in the meantime and you are charged 50%, you will be entitled to a full refund as described above.
As a result of the arbitrator’s ruling, VIA Rail has decided that the whole of the former Rail Pass program will apply to employees represented by Unifor and retirees formerly represented by Unifor. Consequently you are no longer eligible to benefit from the new Rail Pass program.
There is an issue between VIA Rail and Unifor regarding pass holders who made purchases under the new pass program after March 26th, 2015 that were not covered by the former pass program and the extent to which the benefits of the new pass program may need to be refunded. This issue will be addressed before the arbitrator as described below.
It is VIA Rail’s position that the restored former program will add the full fare value of free travel to the employee’s T4 (and Relevé 1 in Quebec) or retiree’s T4A (and Relevé 2 in Quebec) in accordance with tax legislation. That consequence is not agreed to by Unifor and is an issue between VIA Rail and Unifor.
As was announced by VIA Rail on August 14, 2015, VIA Rail has requested the arbitrator to reconsider his decision. The basis of this reconsideration request is that the former Pass program has adverse tax consequences that do not apply to the new Pass program, making the latter overall more favourable.
Should the arbitrator’s decision be reversed, the situation may change, but until then, the restoration of the former privileges and reimbursement described above will continue to apply.
4. The above communication will be sent forthwith by the Company by regular mail to all VIA employees and to all retirees. Should any mail be returned to the Company as undelivered, it is to be sent to the addressee by individual priority post.
5. The matters referred to in the communication will be addressed at the hearing on September 9, 2015, with the other matters of implementation and the reconsideration request.
September 1, 2015 __________