Refusal to Allow Bump Did Not Violate Collective Agreement

In the wake of a slowdown, a plant worker’s attempt to bump into another job where she had some experience was rejected by the employer who claimed that she was not qualified according to the terms of the contract.

The union grieved.

Employed since 1984 in a plant that produces take-out cups, D.L.’s first entry-level job was in “utility.” In 1991 she bid for the job of “pressman B” — also called printing assistant — and was the successful applicant. However, she declined the job because it was on the night shift.

Declined position

One year later, D.L. was temporarily reassigned to the position of press operator at a lower classification than the pressman B job. D.L. was paid at the press operator rate even though — according to her — most of the time she performed the duties of the pressman B. At the end of that assignment, she was promoted to the position of plate mounter at the same grade as a printing assistant. Subsequent to that assignment, D.L. had a couple of opportunities to be promoted to the printing assistant position but again declined because the jobs were on the night shift.

When layoffs were announced in 2008, D.L. attempted to bump into a printing assistant job at the same wage level. However, the employer said that she was not qualified according to the terms of the collective agreement and that she would have to bump into a utility position.

At issue was the interpretation of the terms of the collective agreement, which specified a number of requisite qualifications for bumping. Two requirements in particular were in question, the first being that the worker previously held the position and the second that the worker had not previously declined the position.

Temporary assignment

According to these terms, the employer said, D.L. was not qualified. Despite her temporary assignment in the position of printing assistant, she had not held the job according to the terms of the collective agreement. Moreover, D.L. explicitly declined the position on a number of occasions and was therefore not qualified according to the clear terms set out in the agreement.

The union disagreed. The fact that she had been assigned the duties of a printing assistant meant that she had held that classification. Furthermore, while D.L. may have declined a printing assistant job on the night shift she had not declined that job on the day shift — the position that she was seeking to bump into. The fact that the job was on a different shift meant it was a different job, the union argued.

Agreement precise

The Arbitrator disagreed. The parties had been very explicit about their intentions and the collective agreement reflected as much.

“The parties have been very precise in [the collective agreement] in providing that in order to be qualified to bump into a position, the employee must have ‘held the classification.’ Indeed, [the agreement] limits the period of any formal temporary transfer to 30 days and specifically provides that any transfer of up to 30 days cannot be relied on to retain the position.”

D.L. had not “held classification,” said the Arbitrator.

Neither was the putative distinction between the day and night shift versions of the job determinative, said the Arbitrator.

“I do not agree with the Union’s assertion that the position the grievor had previously declined is a different position on days than it is on nights or afternoons. In my view the Union’s interpretation of the term ‘position’ as utilized in [the collective agreement] is too narrow. By declining the position of pressman B or printing assistant, the grievor has, in my view, disqualified herself from bumping into that position by virtue of that article.”

The grievance was dismissed.

Reference: Graphic Communications International Union/International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 100-M and Solo Cup Canada Inc. Norm Jesin — Sole Arbitrator. Mandy Wojcik for the Union and Bob Goldman for the Employer. February 17, 2010. 7 pp.

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