While managers spent lavishly, TNRD stripped legitimate lunch expenses from staff | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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While managers spent lavishly, TNRD stripped legitimate lunch expenses from staff


While the top brass at the Thompson-Nicola Regional District was splurging on fine wines in top restaurants, senior management was also attempting to strip a handful of off-site staff from claiming legitimate lunch expenses.

In 2019, months after the regional district had dropped $8,000 on a trendy high-end restaurant in Whistler, it sent an email to the union advising it was looking at removing the lunch expenses for roughly 10 employees who worked in the field for the majority of their work days.

According to a June 23 B.C. Labour Relations Board decision, the director of finance "had concerns about the meal expenses" in late 2018 and suggested it consider eliminating the meal allowances.

However, the director of corporate services said that from a "human resources perspective" it was best to leave meal expenses as they were.

READ MORE: Forensic audit uncovers 'culture of intimidation' at TNRD

Then in April 2019, the union and the regional district began bargaining a renewal of the collective agreement.

Once a new collective agreement was ratified in the summer of 2019, the regional district contacted the union to confirm the meal allowances for field employees had been discontinued.

All this was taking place while the chief administrative officer Sukh Gill was racking up ten of thousands of dollars on lavish expenses before he left with a half-a-million-dollar payout.

The union disagreed and the details of whether the new collective agreements allowed for the fewer than a dozen employees to claim their lunches became a sticking point.

The regional district contested the details of the collective agreement but a labour arbitrator ruled in favour of the union and said stripping the staff from the lunch expenses violated their collective agreement.

However, the regional district appealed the ruling.

READ MORE: Former TNRD CAO Sukh Gill wins award for government waste

Much of the recent labour relations decision addresses the wording of the collective agreement and focuses on an email sent by the regional district just before bargaining began.

The decision does not say how much the 10 or so staffers were allowed to claim for lunch, only that it was the same amount of regional district directors.

The regional district argued in its appeal the arbitrator had failed to make a genuine effort to interpret the collective agreement.

The decision said the lunch expenses were never brought up during negotiations.

"If the union believed the meal expense to be a [collective agreement] right, it had an obligation to raise the issue," the regional district argued.

However, the labour relations board disagreed and dismissed the regional district appeal, leaving a handful of workers to submit receipts for their lunches.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 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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