Limits placed on when employees could be scheduled
A SASKATCHEWAN school board’s collective agreement allowed flexibility in setting start times, but it didn’t give workers the right to choose themselves when to start work.
The collective agreement between the Board of Education of Regina School Division No. 4 and its union had a provision that stated the starting time for senior, in-charge facility technicians who care for public schools as “at or between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.” This starting window was expanded from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. in 2010 but had otherwise been in the collective agreement since 1991.
The collective agreement also stipulated that “where employees’ working schedules vary from week to week, working schedules shall be posted no later than the Wednesday preceding the work week concerned.”
Each of the elementary and high school buildings operated by the school board, plus an office building, had a senior facility technician who was responsible for the maintenance of the property and a team of caretakers and facility technicians. Each senior technician determined their start time based on the needs of the particular school, which was affected by factors such as the size of the school, arrival time of staff and students, the time needed for cleaning, and the time of the year — for example, the start time could be earlier if snow needed to be plowed in winter or lawns mowed on hot days in the summer. Each senior technician advised their manager of the chosen start time and would set the start time for other staff at the school.
On Dec. 14, 2015, one of the property managers sent a memo to all senior facility technicians that set out specific start times. The memo stated that those at high schools were to work from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with a onehour lunch and those at elementary schools must work from 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Any changes required approval from managers.
The union filed a grievance claiming that the wording of the collective agreement allowed senior facility technicians to choose their start times and past practice had been to do so. The union accepted that employers had the authority to set start times for employees where there was no specific collective agreement language on the subject, but claimed this agreement addressed the issue. Start times for other positions were set out in the agreement, but only the three-hour window for senior facility technicians, which indicated an intention to allow flexibility, the union argued.
The arbitration panel found that the collective agreement’s reference to the start time window was a stipulation that start time must fall between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. but not a restriction on the school board’s ability to set specific start times. Instead, it provided flexibility to set start times, the panel said.
“The absence of a specified start time in [the collective agreement] leads to a conclusion that the parties intend some flexibility in starting time for [senior facility technicians],” said the panel. “It does not lead to a conclusion that the provision was intended to give [senior facility technicians] the discretion to choose their own start times or erode the right of the employer to determine a start time for its employees.”
The panel also noted that there was no requirement for consultation with the union in setting start times, only if there was a change outside of the set window.
The panel determined that the school board was allowed under the collective agreement to set specific start times for senior facility technicians, as long as those start times fell between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. as prescribed in the collective agreement. The grievance was dismissed.
Reference: Board of Education of Regina School Division No. 4 and CUPE, Local 650 (Flexible Start Times). Allen Ponak — chair. Eileen Libby for employer. Gary Bainbridge for employee. April 17, 2019. 2019 CarswellSask 197