Toronto Hydro staffer suspended for insubordination

Multiple suspensions excessive: Arbitrator

Dawn Voss, a worker at Toronto Hydro, received numerous suspensions for insubordination and other behaviour that the company deemed "inappropriate" — and an arbitrator has agreed with such discipline, to an extent.

Between 2009 and 2011, Voss received a letter of warning, a one-day suspension, a two-day suspension and a three-day suspension. She was then given another three-day suspension, a five-day suspension and a 10-day suspension.

While the four former reprimands stand, the latter three were under consideration for this case.

Throughout that time period, there had been several incidents warranting discipline, such as taking unauthorized leave for two days and insubordination.

The union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), argued Voss had been harshly disciplined because management is opposed to her representational activities.

Arbitrator sides with company

The company argued otherwise and arbitrator Russell Goodfellow sided with Toronto Hydro at the hearing.

Goodfellow said Voss’s role as a union steward had little to do with anything.

In fact, most evidence pointed to an employee who was "unnecessarily confrontational and disrespectful towards management," he said, adding that, "the show is not Voss’s to run."

However, Goodfellow said some balance on the part of both parties needs to be taken into consideration.

"Something of a line in the sand appears to have been drawn towards Voss that has spawned a degree of intolerance. Not every action deserves a reaction. Some to and fro is to be expected and accepted," Goodfellow explained.

But the change needs to come from the employee, not the employer.

As such, Goodfellow upheld the grievance — with respect to the penalty only.

He ordered that the appropriate penalty is not a 10-day suspension but rather a second, complete five-day suspension, one that (accompanied with the previous five-day suspension) would only be accompanied by five, not three days’ loss of pay.

The three-day suspension was dismissed and the company was ordered to compensate Voss for the five days of pay she lost.

Reference: Toronto Hydro and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 1. Russell Goodfellow — arbitrator. Sven Poysa for the company, Mark Wright for the union. Jan. 21, 2015.

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