Transit employee drives employer crazy

Bus driver engaged in his own 'work to rule' campaign

This instalment of You Make the Call features a bus driver who was disciplined after he engaged in his own “work to rule” campaign and publicly criticized his employer.

The bus driver worked for the London Transit Commission (LTC) in London, Ont., for 27 years. During the last few years, his attitude towards his employer changed and his behaviour worsened.

The driver at times chose to “work to rule” when he felt the LTC wasn’t treating him right or he disagreed with certain labour issues. Though the LTC considered him a “highly capable” employee, when he chose to work to rule he broke down the duties on his shift and performed them deliberately and one at a time, rather than multitasking. He also drove below speed limits the entire length of his route. These actions led to delays in service and made him behind in his schedule more than other drivers. This caused frustration for his supervisors, as well as the public, of which the driver was well aware.

The driver also wrote a letter to the local newspaper in response to an article that raised issues with the LTC’s attendance and attendance policies. The letter criticized management and said the LTC treated its employees unfairly. The LTC felt this worsened the situation and potentially caused harm to its image. It felt he should have brought any issues he had to the union and the LTC, rather than airing problems in a public forum.

When the driver failed to meet the schedule on his latest route, the LTC decided to discipline him. It felt his behaviour was petty and “designed to cause mischief, inconvenience and disarray,” which not only caused problems for the operation of its service but undermined the collective agreement.

The union argued the driver didn’t violate any workplace policies or neglect his duties and ensured they were performed correctly and safely. It also argued his letter was a public response to public comments in the newspaper.

You Make the Call

Did the driver’s behaviour warrant discipline?
Was the driver within his rights to act as he did?

If you said the driver’s actions warranted discipline, you’re right. The arbitrator found the driver’s behaviour was provocative and inappropriate. Though he performed his duties to the minimum required under the LTC’s rules, the arbitrator said rules should be fluid and his job performance should not be limited in a way that would be to the detriment to the public. The arbitrator recommended that if the driver had any concerns about schedules and time planning, he should bring them to the union.

The arbitrator also found the letter to the newspaper was insubordinate and the driver had no right to publicly criticize the LTC unless it specifically mentioned the driver, which it didn’t. The driver was not a union executive and didn’t have the freedom to publicly criticize without consequences.

However, despite the fact the driver’s actions were worthy of discipline, the arbitrator decided to overrule it. The driver acknowledged his behaviour was unacceptable and he said he didn’t know the extent to which his actions were wrong. He agreed going forward to work to the best of his ability.

“This particular grievor has seen the error of his ways,” the arbitrator said. “(He) must be given an opportunity to start again now that he professes to know all of the stipulated boundaries and limits of acceptable conduct.”

The LTC was ordered to expunge the discipline from the driver’s record and pay him any money lost from his discipline. The arbitrator ordered the LTC to treat him the same as any other employee as long as he stuck to his pledge. The driver was ordered to keep any future complaints or concerns within the collective agreement’s internal grievance process.

“No matter, however contentious, except when (the driver) is personally insulted by name, should give rise to such a spontaneous and insubordinate public response,” the arbitrator said. See London Transit Commission v. A.T.U., Local 741, 2008 CarswellOnt 8007 (Ont. Arb. Bd.).

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