N.B. job posting lost in translation

Union grieves language requirement

The International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) local 999 filed a grievance against the City of Moncton after a job posting for an assistant fire prevention officer was designated as a bilingual position.

According to the union, the New Brunswick-based employer failed to adhere to the terms of the parties’ collective agreement when it directed the candidate for position "must be fluently bilingual in both official languages and may be required to undertake a language skills test."

The union argued the employer was attempting to unilaterally impose an additional pre-requisite for the position outside of the collective agreement, something it could not do without negotiation.

The union requested the position be reposted and that the incumbent employee be appointed to his previous position without a loss of seniority.

In 2010, the employer posted another vacancy for an assistant fire prevention officer — also designated as a bilingual position — and the union filed a grievance. The grievance was held in abeyance, however, after the parties established a promotional process committee and agreed to a letter of understanding setting out a list of prerequisites for positions within the bargaining unit. None of the prerequisites addressed a language requirement.

Since the 2010 grievance, two positions were filled by Anglophone employees. The union argued the filling of these two positions without a bilingual requirement shows that the employer intentionally avoided addressing the issue of language requirements with the promotional process committee.

Further, the union argued the incumbent was not a senior employee when he was promoted. It argued the appointment was made solely on the basis of his meeting the language requirement of the posting. None of the other requirements — as agreed to by both parties in the collective agreement and letter of agreement — were assessed.

The employer argued it has a constitutional obligation to offer services to its citizens in both official languages.

The City of Moncton was designated as officially bilingual in 2002, and the employer noted it has since taken the approach of grandfathering positions as well as offering long-term language training to current employees.

The employer further argued the union was not entitled, under the collective agreement, to have input on the skills of the assistant fire prevention officer.

Robert Breen, chair of the arbitration board, said the "best option" for both parties would be to negotiate terms for language requirements at the fire department in collective bargaining.

Concerning the immediate case, Breen said "the evidence demonstrates that the sole testing called for by the city for the disputed posting went to the language requirement set. While I am satisfied that this requirement was ‘prudent and necessary’ in the particular facts of this case… it does not constitute a licence for the city to totally absolve itself from tests negotiated with local 999."

Accordingly, the arbitration board did not find reason to direct the incumbent employee be removed from the position. The board did, however, rule the employee be called upon to complete the tests prescribed in the parties’ collective agreement.

"In the expected event that (the incumbent) does now achieve a composite score of 70 or better, he is to retain his position, without further trial," the board ruled.

The union’s grievance was otherwise denied.

Reference: City of Moncton and the International Association of Firefighters Local 999. Arbitration board: Robert D. Breen, chair; Peter McIntyre, employer nominee; Larry Cook, union nominee. André Richard for the employer and Lee McKeigan-Dempsey for the union. Jan. 14, 2015.

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