Ontario nurse loses place in pay scale after changing classification

Nurses promoted from the top should not have to start at the bottom: Arbitrator

Michelle Davis was hired by the Regional Municipality of York as a casual employee in the registered nurse classification. 
Because of her previous experience as a nurse, she was placed at the top pay rate for the classification. In the fall of 2012, about a year after she was hired, Davis successfully applied for a temporary, full-time registered nurse position. The new position maintained her place at the top pay rate. 

Then, in early 2013, Davis was transferred to a temporary public health nurse position.

As a result of the transfer, Davis moved from step 5 of the registered nurse classification — the top pay rate — to step 3 o the public health nurse classification. 

Davis worked as a public health nurse for about one year and moved up to step 4 of the grid. Following this period, she successfully applied for a permanent full-time position in the registered nurse classification.

She moved back to the top pay rate of step 5 in the registered nurse salary grid, which was a smaller salary than what she was making as a step 4 public health nurse. 

After taking a pay cut to secure a full-time position, Davis moved to a permanent full-time public health nurse position on March 24, 2015. As a result of the move, she was once again moved from step 5 on the registered nurse grid to step 3 on the public health nurse grid. 

Davis’ union, the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA), argued that because of Davis’ experience as a temporary full-time public health nurse, she should have been placed at step 4 in her new permanent position in 2015 instead of 2tep 3. 

Davis had previously reached that step in the pay scale and the employer’s failure to return her there was a violation of the parties’ collective agreement, the union said. 

The employer, however, argued Davis voluntarily moved to a lower classification to obtain permanent status. In order to gain permanent employment, there was a trade-off. 

The employer further argued there was nothing in the collective agreement that allowed employees to receive credit for the same experience more than once. Davis moved from step 3 to step 4 when she was a temporary public health nurse. Davis left her experience credit behind when she took a demotion, the employer said, and she could not claim that credit again now that she had been hired on as a public health nurse in a permanent, full-time capacity.

According to arbitrator Lorne Slotnick, the structure of the parties’ collective agreement suggested that the union and employer agreed that nurses promoted from the top of the registered nurse scale had enough skill and experience that they should not have to start at the bottom of the public health nurse scale. However, employees promoted from the registered nurse scale did not have the full range of skills and experience to be placed at the top of the public health nurse scale. 

“Moving to the top of the scale requires some time in the job,” Slotnick said. 

Considering Davis’ experience, however, Slotnick found it was not proper or reasonable for the employer to place her at step 3 when she was moved back to the public health nurse classification. As a result, the grievance was allowed and Slotnick ordered Davis be fully compensated. 

Reference: The Regional Municipality of York and the Ontario Nurses’ Association. Lorne Slotnick — arbitrator. Wesley Booker for the employer, Vanessa Kee Yanagawa for the union. June 2, 2016. 

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