Union president’s suspension upheld (Legal view)

Worker says he should have been allowed to be aggressive in his role as employee advocate
By Lorna Harris
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/07/2007

Union officials have a role to advocate on behalf of employees, but that doesn’t give them the right to be aggressive and abusive, an Ontario arbitrator has ruled.

H. Singh was the local union president at Winners, a retail chain that sells clothing and housewares. He had been on the job for five years when he was suspended for four or five days. He had allegedly been disruptive, disrespectful and insubordinate — twice in the same week in the summer of 2006. Singh argued his punishment was unjust. He launched his own grievance and also a group grievance alleging members of management had behaved aggressively towards him and other union members

By way of background, in 2003, there was a grievance settlement at Winners that expressly agreed “union and management interactions will be conducted in a manner that is positive, respectful and free from personal attacks and profanity.” In another settlement in January 2006, the parties agreed all employees “are to follow the directions given by any person in authority at Winners even if that person is not the (employee’s) direct supervisor.” Both settlements were signed by Singh.