No obligation for union to grieve legitimate firing: Board

Union investigated worker’s disciplinary history and conduct and found employer had just cause for dismissal

A British Columbia trade union did not act arbitrarily or in bad faith when it decided not to pursue a grievance against an employer who fired a worker for not doing his job.

David Winser was a fuel truck driver for a B.C. fuel company. Part of his job involved making sure operators made their trucks accessible for fueling and keeping company vehicles fuelled and oiled. In October 2007 Winsler was warned he needed to do a better job. Two months later, in December, he was laid off, but he was recalled in January 2008.

However, the employer didn’t feel Winser’s performance improved any since his recall and gave him several verbal and written warnings that he had failed to fuel and oil vehciles. Finally, on Jan. 17, 2008, the company fired him.

Winser told the union he wanted to grieve his termination and it set in motion the grievance process. The union investigated the employer’s reasons for the firing and learned from the shop steward and several of Winser’s co-workers that the company’s accusations held merit. When this was discussed at Winser’s step two grievance meeting, Winser claimed the union representative was not speaking up for him and he felt the union had no intention of representing him.

The union said Winser became angry, made a threatening outburst and left the meeting. Based on its evidence that the firing was legitimate and Winser’s history of discipline and conduct, it felt the matter was closed and didn’t have to communicate with him any further.

Winser claimed the union didn’t give him fair representation by acting in an arbitrary, discriminatory and bad-faith manner by failing to look after his interests and not supporting his grievance, contrary to the Canada Labour Code.

The board found the union properly investigated the matter and found legitimate reasons for the firing. This made it unlikely the grievance would succeed so it made the decision not to pursue it, which it was within its rights to do and not arbitrary or in bad faith.

“When a union acts based on considerations that are relevant to the workplace, it is free to decide what the best course of action is,” the board said. “Winser’s application does not contain information or argument that would suggest that the union did not make its decision based on relevant workplace consideration.”

The board also found once the union decided to close the matter, it was under no further obligation to maintain contact with Winser.

For more information see:

Winser v. C.L.A.C., Local 67, 2009 CarswellBC 408 (B.C. L.R.B.).

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