Saskatchewan worker demands airplane flight-delay payment

‘Language does not differentiate’ between flights: Arbitrator

After he experienced flight delays heading into work at a McClean Lake, Sask., mill, a worker was refused a $300 benefit for arriving late to work.
Workers at the remote site were flown into Points North Landing Airport, in northern Saskatchewan, then driven about 41 kilometres to the site. Typically, employees worked seven-day, 11-hour shifts.
On Sept. 2, 2016, Barry McEwen, pipefitter for Orano Canada at the uranium mill operation, was scheduled to be flown into the site from his home base of Saskatoon. He arrived at 6:30 a.m., for the expected 7:15 a.m. flight. However, poor weather conditions prevented outbound and inbound flights at the airport. 
McEwen remained at the airport until 3 p.m., and then went home. He was able to reach the mill site the following day for his regular shift. 
McEwan was paid for all the hours he should have worked on Sept. 2, but he didn’t receive the expected flight-delay benefit. 
According to a July 1 letter of understanding (LOU) that was part of the collective agreement, “where transportation is delayed (defined as arrival at the drop-off point) either five hours later than scheduled arrival time or after 11 p.m., whichever applies, the company will compensate employees on such flights with a benefit of $300.”
On the same day of the delay, pipefitter Wesley Churchill was scheduled to return home to the Prince Albert, Sask., airport, but the bad weather meant he stayed at McClean Lake and worked an extra shift.
Churchill was paid $300 for the delayed flight home and received overtime pay for working the extra day. 
McEwen, and the union, Unifor, Local 48-S grieved the denial of the flight-delay payment.
The $300 compensation was only intended for homeward-bound flights, testified Mark Campbell, manager of HR and training. Employees who are heading into work are being paid for all time spent, even if they don’t work that day, he said. The extra money was intended for employees who were late getting to their homes, according to  Campbell. 
However, this distinction didn’t exist in the LOU wording, argued Unifor. 
Arbitrator William Hood agreed with the union and ordered the employer to pay $300 to McEwan. 
“The objective of the extraordinary flight delays LOU is clearly stated. The objective does not differentiate among employees or the direction of the flight. What the employer is asking me to do is read into the extraordinary flight delays LOU that which is not there. In my view, should I restrict the stated objective to compensate only employees for extraordinary flight delays leaving the mine site defeats the objective of the extraordinary flight delays LOU” said Hood.
Other parts of the collective agreement distinguish between differing flights, said Orano, and this should be construed to mean the LOU also refers to outbound flights only. 
“The language does not differentiate between inbound flights and outbound flights like the language found in articles 31.3 and 31.4 of the collective agreement. It would be a fair conclusion to reach, and one I am inclined to make, that the language of the extraordinary flight delays LOU does not restrict the compensation for flight delays only to outbound flights. It does not say that, and I have no mandate to change the words the parties have agreed to,” said Hood. 
“I also do not agree with the employer’s submission that the drop-off point should be so narrowly construed to mean only the point the employee ceases to be under the supervision of the employer” said Hood. 
“There is no support for the argument. There is nothing in the collective agreement that defines a drop-off point, let alone a drop-off point where the employee is supervised,” said Hood.
Reference: Orano Canada and Unifor, Local 48-S. William Hood — arbitrator. Kevin Wilson for the employer. Gary Bainbridge for the employee. Jan. 25, 2019.

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