Toronto amalgamation complicates vacation for hydro worker

Vacation entitlement based on employment service, not seniority

A Toronto Hydro employee will not be given the extra week of vacation he thought he was entitled to, an arbitrator has decided.

Ron Fowler, a certified power line worker at Toronto Hydro, filed a grievance alongside the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) after he received 25 days of vacation as opposed to the 30 that he said the collective agreement entitled him to.

According to the agreement, employees are entitled to 30 days of vacation in the calendar year they complete 25 years of service.
The union said Fowler was entitled to 30 days of vacation at the beginning of 2013 but the employer did not give him the 30 days annually until the start of 2014.

When the City of Toronto amalgamated, Fowler ended up with two separate service dates, further complicating the matter.

However, CUPE said there was no difference between seniority and employment, for the purpose of vacations. Therefore, he was entitled to move up the 30-day entitlement to 2013, as human resources had used the 1989 amalgamation date (as opposed to 1988), for recordkeeping purposes.

Therefore, the union said Fowler should be given 5 days off at the current wage rate.

Toronto Hydro, however, said it dealt with “employment service.” As of January 2013, Fowler had 25 years of service under his belt, as he started with the previous utility — or the City of York at the time — in 1989, when Fowler would have begun with no seniority.

The employer said it has consistently used the 1989 date, and that if seniority and service were indeed interchangeable, seniority is not interchangeable with the seniority list.

Arbitrator Lorne Slotnick agreed with Toronto Hydro.

Because the term “employment service” is not explicitly defined in the collective agreement, Slotnick said the words must carry their normal and ordinary meaning — that is, the amount of service at Toronto Hydro and York Hydro, but not service with the City of York.

Slotnick said the union’s interpretation conflates employment service with seniority and the seniority list in all circumstances. But vacation entitlement is not based on seniority, it’s based on employment service.

“While seniority is defined as length of service with the employer, employment service is not defined as an employee’s placement on the seniority list. Thus, even though in most cases seniority and employment service will be identical under this collective agreement, they may differ here. What governs for vacation entitlement, according to the collective agreement, is employment service rather than seniority,” he said in the decision.

Since Fowler did not work for the City of York but for York Hydro when it was spun off, he was not entitled to 30 days of vacation. Slotnick dismissed the grievance.

Reference: Toronto Hydro and the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 1. Lorne Slotnick — arbitrator. Sven Poysa for the employer, Leanne MacMillan for the union. Feb. 8, 2016.

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