Family Day is an issue for unions in Ontario

Contract language means some workers won’t have the new holiday

Usually collective agreements guarantee that their terms go beyond what is required under labour laws, but ironically, in the case of the new Family Day legislation in Ontario, that may not work out to be the case.

Shortly after the provincial election last fall, Premier Dalton McGuinty announced that February 18 would be a new provincial statutory holiday, bringing the total number of such paid holidays in Ontario to nine. Any paid holidays above what the Employment Standards Act requires are subject to collective agreements or, in the case of non-unionized workplaces, the discretion of the employer.

In many unionized workplaces, collective agreements already provide for more than nine paid holidays. As a result, some employers, for example the Toronto Police Services Board (with 12 paid holidays) and the County of Middlesex (with 11 paid holidays) won’t be adding it to their holiday roster and will either expect their employees to work that day or will replace a floating holiday with Family Day.

A representative from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) quoted in the London Free Press called this “preposterous,” adding the workers “may have given up something else” in negotiations in order to get the extra holidays. Many municipal employers, however, were fretting over the overtime costs such a holiday would incur if, for example, there were a serious snowstorm on that day.

Some union contracts spell out that any new holiday will be added to the existing list: The 1, 200 inside and outside workers represented by CUPE in London lucked out with their contract language and will be getting the day as a holiday. And the employees at Strathmere Lodge, employed by the County of Middlesex, but under a separate contract from their less fortunate inside and outside counterparts, have 12 holidays including the “third Monday in February,” mentioned specifically in their contract.

Matt Davenport, a representative with the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 175, said he expects many arbitration hearings will result from this issue.

Added to those who will not be taking the day off are employees in federally-regulated industries like banks, shipping companies, radio and television stations and airlines. These workplaces are not covered by provincial labour and employment laws.

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