Hospital chaplains lose grievance, told to apologize to boss

Arbitrator found employees contributed to unhappy workplace and told them to seek forgiveness

Three hospital chaplains in Manitoba who filed complaints about their boss have been told by a labour arbitrator they should seek his forgiveness instead.

Reverend Carlyle Murrell-Cole, Sister Jeannine Corbeil and Father Roland Lanoie were chaplains at St. Boniface General Hospital. When Father Gerry Ward was hired as the director of spiritual services at the hospital in 2005, tensions increased in the department.

According to the three chaplains, Ward insulted them, threatened their job security and labelled them as troublemakers. Corbeil said he called the department a “kindergarten” and a nuclear medicine specialist as “the lady who glows in the dark.” She also said he made remarks about her large size and he told her some people called her Attila the Nun because of her temper.

Lanoie claimed Ward stopped sending him his work schedule electronically and when he asked why, Ward accused him of being rude to Ward’s assistant.

Murrell-Cole testified when he was elected the chaplains’ union representative, he was reassigned to a heavier workload and a more cramped workspace.

The hospital hired an outside consultant to investigate the situation after the chaplains filed a grievance, but the consultant determined it was the chaplains who were causing trouble, not Ward.

A labour arbitrator who heard the grievance, which requested a month off for each, $10,000 and discipline against Ward, reached the same conclusion.

The arbitrator found the chaplains’ claims were “frivolous and vexatious”, “blown out of proportion” and they were troublesome employees who created an unhealthy workplace.

“The evidence revealed a picture of an exasperated (spiritual care) director who was facing intractable conflict including intemperate, sometimes insubordinate conduct by part of his staff,” said the arbitrator.

Though the hospital was ordered to pay Murrell-Cole $2,500 for moving him out of his regular job, he dismissed the rest of the grievance and admonished the three disgruntled employees.

“At the very least, these three chaplains owe the hospital and Father Ward a public apology,” said the arbitrator. “After the unrelenting and unfair attack he has sustained, I hope Father Ward can forgive them.”

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