Teaching Assistant Union wins at first ever grievance arbitration - improper letter of discipline removed
On January 27, 2010, the Union of Students Employed at the University of Ottawa (CUPE Local 2626) filed a formal grievance with the University of Ottawa on behalf of teaching assistant Joseph Hickey alleging violations of the CUPE-2626 Collective Agreement's articles on Discrimination, Harassment, Discipline, and Academic Freedom. [Letter of grievance, grievance form]
The matters of the grievance arose from the issuance of a No Trespassing Notice to the CUPE-2626 member on December 7, 2009 [read details of the successful Trespassing battle here]. Requests for reparation included a public apology from the University for its treatment of the member, that the University negotiate a new policy on the use of No Trespassing Notices with the Union, and that a letter of discipline be removed from Hickey's employment file at the Department of Physics.
The University did not respond to the Union's January 27, 2010 letter despite its obligation under the Collective Agreement (article 13.2.5). Nor did the University respond to the Union's next letter, sent March 2, 2010, despite its obligation under the Collective Agreement (article 13.2.6).
On March 22, University Labour-Relations manager Jean-Yves Leduc wrote to the Union claiming that the University considered the grievance withdrawn due to deadline issues. [Letter]
On March 4, CUPE-2626 wrote back to Leduc explaining that the Union had acted in good faith, had attempted to meet with the University to resolve the grievance according to the agreed-upon steps, and had even given the University a reasonable amount of extra time to respond to its requests. Failing cooperation from the University, the Union's only choice was to proceed to arbitration. Arbitration in labour grievances entails hiring a professional arbitrator to render a legally binding decision to resolve the labour dispute.
In early April, the University abandoned its position that the grievance had been withdrawn and instead filed for an expedited arbitration, which meant that the arbitration hearing was required to take place within the next three weeks.
Arbitration on CUPE-2626 Grievance 100125 took place on May 5, 2010 before arbitrator Mary-Ellen Cummings. The University, represented by lawyer André Champagne of the Emmond-Harnden law office, presented a lengthy and detailed legal argument which attacked the defendant Hickey's reputation and insisted that the disputed letter of discipline belonged in Hickey's employment file even though it did not have to do with employment. When the Union pointed out this inconsistency during its presentations, the University immediately agreed to remove the letter of discipline from Hickey's employment file, and did so before the arbitrator. For an independent report and analysis of the arbitration and grievance proceedings, see this post at the U of O Watch Blog.
On June 2, 2010 Allan Rock hosted an administration-run presentation on the university's "Resource Optimization" program and the significant cuts to the 2010-2011 budget that the program would entail. During the public question session following Rock's presentation, Hickey explained how the University had spent thousands of dollars and undermined one of its collective agreements in order to keep an improper letter of discipline in a student teaching assistant's employment file, and he challenged Rock to make a public statement that University resources would no longer be used in legal attacks against students. Mr. Rock's response to the claim that University funds were being misused in this way was to say that it was "a premise that I reject." [Link to video -- (question session at the end)]