When bargaining goes wrong (Legal view)

Misunderstanding over how drivers are paid leads to windfall for workers
By Lorna Harris
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 05/04/2007

Honeywell ASCa Inc., an aerospace product and parts manufacturer in the southwestern Ontario town of Amherstburg, had a policy in which its truck drivers were supposed to be paid an hourly rate for certain types of delays. The drivers’ pay was made up of three basic components: a basic weekly guarantee; a mileage rate paid on top of the weekly guarantee for distance travelled; and an hourly rate paid for time when the drivers are engaged in activities other than driving, or when they are delayed or stopped while driving.

For the latter pay, the company would generally begin paying drivers after one hour in some circumstances and after three hours for others. However, the policy had been applied inconsistently over the years. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, delays at the border increased and the company began paying drivers after a one-hour delay even though the collective agreement said three, a practice that went on for about a year.

There was also a distinction in the collective agreement about “expected” and “unexpected” delays. Derek Fletcher, Honeywell’s distribution supervisor, admitted the old agreement was followed only “to the best of our abilities” and confessed, “I still don’t understand expected and unexpected delays –– it doesn’t make sense to me.”