IN THE MATTER OF AN ARBITRATION
Canadian National Railway Company
THE CANADIAN COUNCIL OF RAILWAY SHOPCRAFT EMPLOYEES AND ALLIED WORKERS
GRIEVANCE OF VARIOUS ELECTRICIANS, PT. ST. CHARLES SHOPS, MONTREAL, ASSESSED 20 DEMERITS EACH ON DECEMBER 14, 1982 FOR INSUBORDINATION
SOLE ARBITRATOR: J. F. W. Weatherill
There appeared on behalf of the Union:
J. W. Asprey
And on behalf of the Company:
J. A. Cameron
P. E. Scheerle
A hearing in this matter was held at Montreal on April 9, 1984.
The Dispute and Joint Statement of Issue in this matter are as follows:
Claim of various Electricians, Pointe St. Charles Shops, Montreal who were assessed 20 demerits each December 14, 1982 for insubordination.
JOINT STATEMENT OF ISSUE
On December 14, 1982, W. Mandziuk, General Foreman, Passenger – Car was approached by M. Lemieux, Shop Foreman for assistance in dispersing a group of eleven (11) Electricians (list attached) who refused to return to their work assignments after having coffee in Car 6204.
Shop Foreman, M. Lemieux and Foreman Lanthier had previously asked this group to return to work on two separate occasions without success. General Foreman Mandziuk accompanied by Shop Foreman Lemieux entered Car 6204 and requested that each employee return. to his work assignment, but each refused to do so.
The group disbanded after General Foreman Mandziuk left the car.
Following the investigations, the eleven Electricians involved in the incident were each assessed 20 demerit marks for insubordination.
The Union contends that the discipline imposed was too severe, not fair and impartial, and requests that the demerits be removed. The Company has declined the Union’s request.
There is no doubt that the grievors had assembled for coffee (a coffee break is not required under the collective agreement but is allowed by the company), rather than each taking coffee at his own work location, as the company then required (its directives in this respect have since changed). Without judging the question which might have arisen in the case of an individual directed to have coffee in particularly unsuitable surroundings, it must be said that the grievors’ congregating as they did was a misdemeanour for which some sort of warning might have been issued.
However that may be, it is certainly the case that the grievors ought to have left the car and returned to work when Mr. Lanthier, and then Mr. Lemieux, asked them to do so. It is equally clear that they ought to have followed the similar instructions given by Mr. Mandziuk, the General Foreman. An instruction relating to deportment of this sort is to be obeyed, and it is no answer to say that the employees are accustomed to taking their orders from their immediate supervisors. That is no doubt the case with respect to the performance of most of their individual work assignments, but it is no reason to conclude that they did not understand the authority of the supervisors in question, or of the General Foreman.
The employees in question, who had reached the end of the coffee break, stayed on in the car and, when the General Foreman arrived, gave expression to their views about the rule – now changed – as to where they should take coffee. It is not necessary, for the purposes of this decision, to make any finding as to whether or not this constituted an illegal work stoppage on the grievor’s part. It has not been shown that the incident could be said to have been planned in any significant sense, and it was not persisted in once the General Foreman left.
The matter was investigated in accordance with the provisions of the collective agreement. The investigating officer had the statements of the supervisors before him, and put questions to the employees based in part on those statements. That is, the employees were given an opportunity to tell their side of the story. In my view, there was nothing at all improper in the procedure followed.
There was, I find, cause for the imposition of discipline in this case. The grievors’ failure to heed the supervisors, or respond promptly to the direction of the General Foreman, was wrong and subjected them to discipline. There is no evidence of individual discipline records in this case, and the matter must be treated as a first offence. In CROA case no. 773, I indicated that 20 demerits would be an excessive penalty in the case of a first offence of this type. There too, the grievor did not immediately obey the direction of a supervisor to conclude his coffee break and return to work. In that case, however, there were not present any of the special considerations which may be considered to explain, although not to excuse the grievors’ conduct. In the instant case the grievors gave expression to a complaint. In Case No. 773, the grievor seemed to be continuing a practice of dawdling, and of ignoring orders for no particular reason.
Having regard to all of the circumstances it is my view that the assessment of ten demerits would not have been excessive in the instant case. The penalty in fact imposed did, I consider, go beyond the range of reasonable disciplinary responses to the situation. Accordingly, it is my award that the penalty assessed against the grievors, records be set aside, and a penalty of ten demerits be substituted therefor.
DATED AT TORONTO, this 4th day of May, 1984.
(signed) J. F. W. Weatherill