IN THE MATTER OF AN ARBITRATION
CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAY COMPANY
THE INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS
IN THE MATTER OF THE GRIEVANCE of K. F. COOMBS
SOLE ARBITRATOR: J. F. W. Weatherill
There appeared on behalf of the Union:
There appeared on behalf of the Company:
S. A. MacDougald
A hearing in this matter was held at Montreal on
The grievor, an Electrician of some twelve years' service, was discharged for accumulation of demerit points, upon having been assessed 15 demerits for using abusive language toward a supervisor.
There is no joint statement of issue, the parties not having agreed thereon. The nature of the dispute is, however, concisely set out in the Union statement, which is as follows.
Electrician Coombs was assessed 15 demerit marks on September 9, 1986, for alleged abusive language towards a supervisor on August 28, 1986. As a result of the assessment of 15 demerits to Electrician Coombs' record, and when added with his previous demerits of 55, he had accumulated 70 demerits and was discharged from the service of the Company for an accumulation of more than 60 demerits.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) appealed Electrician Coombs' discharge on the grounds that the supervisor concerned in the case was not Mr. Coombs' supervisor and that Mr. Coombs was not addressing him at all, but rather was talking to his local chairman, Mr. A. Pelletier. Mr. Coombs became totally exasperated upon Supervisor Banville's repeated interruptions to his conversation with his Local Chairman, and, as a result, the alleged so-called abusive language is in dispute.
The Company has declined the appeal of the IBEW.
The incident which led to the assessment of discipline on the grievor appears to have begun when the Quality Control Supervisor pointed out to the grievor an accumulation of dirt which he had discovered on a brush holder insulator on which the grievor had worked. From the evidence, I find that the grievor listened as the Quality Control Supervisor explained the defective work, and then left, without saying a word. The Quality Control Supervisor expected the grievor to return, but he did not.
Instead, the grievor found the Local Chairman, Mr. Pelletier, who was engaged at that time in a conversation with Supervisor Banville. Mr. Banville was not the grievor's immediate supervisor on that day, although he had acted as his supervisor, and the grievor was aware of his status. The grievor came up to the two men and indicated that he wished to speak to Mr. Pelletier. Mr. Pelletier motioned to the grievor to wait, and when his conversation with the Supervisor finished very shortly thereafter, turned to the grievor. The grievor then explained to Mr. Pelletier that he had had problems cleaning the traction motor because it was oily and the air gun used in cleaning it was missing. Mr. Pelletier then turned to Mr. Banville, who was still present, and inquired about the air guns. Mr. Banville began to explain to Mr. Pelletier that the cupboard in which the air guns were kept had been broken into and that the guns were missing. At that point the grievor suddenly shouted "I'm not talking to You, stupid asshole, fuck off!".
Mr. Pelletier then moved in front of the grievor and told him "c'est assez". Mr. Banville at once walked away, toward the Shop Foreman's office, to report the incident. As he walked, the grievor continued to shout at him. The grievor's initial and subsequent shouts were heard by another supervisor who was in the area.
At a meeting held shortly thereafter in the Shop Forman's office, the grievor apologized to Mr. Banville, but was told by the Shop Forman that "it won't be left at that". An investigation was later held, and the grievor was subsequently assessed 15 demerits in respect of the incident.
At the investigation and at the hearing, the grievor took the position that Mr. Banville had interrupted him in his conversation with Mr. Pelletier. Having regard to all of the evidence, I find that that was not the case, but that the incident occurred as described above. While the grievor does not deny the use of the word "fuck", he maintained that it was not used in an abusive way, and he denied having called Mr. Banville an "asshole".
The use of foul language on the shop floor is no doubt an everyday occurrence, and is not in itself grounds for discipline. The direction of foul language in an abusive manner at another is improper, however, and the direction of such language at a supervisor is particularly so. It was argued that the grievor was somehow provoked into the "tirade", which he more or less acknowledges, but the evidence before me does not support that argument. Mr. Banville did not, I find, interrupt the grievor. Rather, the grievor interrupted Mr. Banville without provocation and using foul and abusive language which was overheard by others. This was not simply the use of foul and abusive language in the presence of a supervisor, it was the direction of such language at him, without provocation. Such conduct was clearly improper and the grievor was, I find, subject to discipline on that account. It is quite immaterial that Mr. Banville was not acting as the grievor's immediate supervisor on the day in question.
The grievor, who had been reinstated (without compensation) in February, 1986, following a previous discharge, had accumulated 53 demerits at the material time. His discipline record was bad. He had been warned in December, 1982, for failure to wear safety glasses, and in May, 1983, for excessive lateness. In May, 1983, he was restricted for a time from driving on Company property. In September, 1983, he was assessed 5 demerits for poor workmanship. In September, 1983, he was warned with respect to the condition of traction motors. In January, 1984, he was warned for refusal to obey a foreman. Later in the same month the grievor was assessed 10 demerits for improper performance of duty. In March, 1984, he was assessed five demerits for poor timekeeping. In April, 1984, he was assessed 20 demerits for repeated traffic violations and refusal to obey a police officer. In January 1985, the grievor was assessed 5 demerits for poor workmanship. In April 1985, the grievor was warned in respect of being in the lunchroom before the permitted time, and in June, 1985, he was warned in respect of being there after the permitted time. In October, 1985, the grievor was warned in respect of the poor quantity of his work. At the same time, he was assessed 10 demerits for insufficient quantity and quality of work. Later in that month, he was assessed 5 demerits for poor quality of work, and in November, 1985, was assessed 10 demerits for poor quality of work. The grievor was discharged in December, 1985, but as noted above was reinstated in February, 1986. His record stood at 55 demerits at the time of his reinstatement.
The Company assessed the grievor 15 demerits in respect of the incident in question here. I consider that to be a rather severe penalty having regard to the particular circumstances. In my view, a penalty of more than 10 demerits really went beyond the range of reasonable disciplinary responses to the particular situation which occurred. The point is, however, academic, since I consider that a penalty of 10 demerits was justified. The effect of that was that the grievor's accumulated discipline was in excess of 60 demerits and that he was subject to discharge.
It was argued at the hearing that the Company had acted against the grievor out of some racist motive. That is a very serious allegation which ought not to be made without substantial proof. There is no proof whatsoever that the Company was motivated in such a way, or that it sought improperly to discriminate against the grievor.
There was, I find, just cause for the assessment of discipline against the grievor in this case, and the result of the assessment of discipline, even if reduced to that of 10 demerits, was that there was, as I find, just cause for the discharge of the grievor. Accordingly, the grievance is dismissed.
DATED AT TORONTO, this 12th day of March, 1987.
J. F. W. Weatherill