IN THE MATTER OF AN ARBITRATION
CANADIAN PACIFIC RAILWAY COMPANY
CAW – CANADA AND ITS LOCAL 101
(Rodney Zdrill Grievance KMA0384 – 10 Demerits)
ARBITRATOR: Vincent L. Ready
COUNSEL: Shelley Smith
for the Employer
for the Union
HEARING: February 7 and 8, 2012
DECISION: March 16, 2012
The parties agree that I am properly constituted as an arbitration board with full jurisdiction to determine the matter in dispute.
Appeal of discipline and accumulation of demerit marks assessed to the record of Rodney Zdrill, the grievor.
JOINT STATEMENT OF ISSUE
On May 4, 2010 Rail Car Mechanic Rodney Zdrill attended a disciplinary investigation in relation to his “absenteeism record for the time period of April 10, 2010 to April 25, 2010”.
Following the disciplinary investigation, the grievor was issued 10 demerit points for “being absent without authorization on April 10, 23 and 24, 2010 while employed at the Winnipeg Car Facility”.
During the investigation, the grievor replied repeatedly that “personal family issues” were behind his absences on the dates. The Union contends that the discipline assessed is without just cause and in any event is excessive.
The Company disagrees with the Union’s contention and has declined the Union’s grievance.
AWARD OF THE ARBITRATOR
The grievor began his career on June 1, 1984 and at one time was CP Rail’s Apprentice of the Year. Until now, the grievor has had a spotless work record and an extraordinary 10 merit points on his record which he earned for his alertness in finding a broken tread on a railcar in 2003. There is no doubt that the grievor has been a good long-term employee.
Rule 16.1 requires an employee who is absent from work for sickness or a good cause is required to advise their foreman of their absence before their shift, if possible. The Winnipeg Mechanical Services Attendance Policy (dated March 9, 2010) also requires an employee who is not available to work a regularly scheduled shift to notify the Employer as soon as they know they will be absent. Telephone numbers are provided. The grievor failed to report to work on April 10, 2010 and did not contact the Employer. He was reminded of his duty when he returned on April 11, 2010. He claimed that he was out of town and he did not recall the appropriate telephone numbers. The grievor was absent on April 23 and 24, 2010 and once again failed to contact the Employer. When he returned to work he did not provide a reason for his failure to comply with the Attendance Policy. When asked to explain his absences from work, he repeatedly stated that he was absent for personal family issues and declined to explain any further. The Union argues that this limited explanation should suffice. Under the circumstances, I do not agree.
The grievor was aware of the need to provide valid reasons for his absences from work and the requirements of the Attendance Policy. Yet, he repeatedly chose not to adhere to these basic requirements. It is trite to observe that an employer has the right to expect an employee to attend work as scheduled; this obligation is one of the foundations of the employment relationship. The Union seeks to distinguish between culpable and non-culpable absences. However, in this instance, the culpability lies in the actions of repeatedly failing to report the absence; regardless of the characterization of the absence itself.
Arbitration boards traditionally ask three questions when assessing the discipline that has been imposed. First, did the grievor’s conduct give rise to just cause for some form of discipline? Second, if so, was the disciplinary response of the employer appropriate having regard to all of the circumstances; and, third, if the discipline chosen by the employer was excessive, what is the appropriate discipline to be imposed.
The Union argues that the grievor’s actions did not give rise to just cause for discipline. For the reasons outlined above, I do not accept that argument. It will be recalled the grievor was repeatedly absent from work and declined to adhere to the proper procedure governing absences: notifying the Employer as soon as possible. The Union also claimed that the discipline of 10 demerit points was excessive. However, under the circumstances, I conclude that it is not. I think it sends a strong message to the grievor of the need to attend work as scheduled or, if attendance is not possible, the grievor must follow the prescribed procedures for reporting and explaining his absences.
In all of the circumstances, I am satisfied that the issuance of 10 demerit points was appropriate. Accordingly, the grievance is dismissed.
It is so awarded.
Dated at the City of Vancouver in the Province of British Columbia this 16th day of March, 2012.
Vincent L. Ready