Terminated Kamloops garbage truck driver loses case against union, City - InfoNews

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Terminated Kamloops garbage truck driver loses case against union, City

May 13, 2020 - 2:02 PM

A former City of Kamloops garbage truck driver believed his union discriminated against him by refusing to take his termination to arbitration, but the Labour Relations Board thought differently.

Before his termination, David Watkins had an “extensive” history of disciplinary actions which began in July of 2016. The matters include driving-related infractions like speeding, distracted driving and careless driving. He was given more than 44 days worth of suspensions over the years. His union, the Canadian Union Of Public Employees Local 900, disputed the 10- and 15-day suspensions, and settled on a "last chance" agreement.

Watkins agreed that he had a long list of disciplinary actions and confirmed he signed a “last chance” agreement in March last year. He was fired just over two months later on May 21, 2019. His termination letter noted how he had subsequently misconducted himself after signing the agreement.

The union grieved the termination. The union, employer and Watkins all discussed the matter, and Watkins mentioned that other employees had also misconducted themselves, but according to the decision from the Labour Relations Board, the employer denied the grievance as others' misconduct did not excuse Watkins.

On June 24, 2019, the union wrote a letter stating why they would not pursue the grievance further.

According to the decision, the union is entitled to decide whether or not they will pursue a grievance based on the situation, so long as it does not contravene Section 12 of the Labour Relations Code. The union can decide not to not pursue a grievance based on considerations such as the last chance agreement, disciplinary history and if it believes the worker will be reinstated. It believed an arbitrator would be unlikely to find that Watkins’ employer fired him without just and reasonable cause.

Watkins took the matter to the Labour Relations Board because he believed the union discriminated against him by not pursuing arbitration. Watkins also believed that because other employees engaged in misconduct without being terminated, he was singled out by his employer. The decision states the Watkins thought the union did not take on his case as it would have had to “throw other union members under the bus.”

Karen Jewell, vice-chair of the Labour Relations Board and the author of the decision, found the union Local 900 hadn’t gone against the Labour Relations Code.

“Under Section 12 of the (Labour Relations Code), a union must not represent a member of the bargaining unit in a manner that is arbitrary, discriminatory, or in bad faith,” states Jewell in the decision. “Inevitably, a union will decide to pursue some, but not all, termination grievances, based on relevant considerations such as whether it believes a particular grievance will succeed.”

Jewell found nothing in the complaint that showed the Local 900 union discriminated against Watkins by not pursuing the grievance.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jenna Wheeler or call (250) 819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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