The dispute, dating back to 2009, revolves around whether or not “bumping”, or layoff by reverse seniority, is permitted under the Civil Service Act.
Fredericton (10 Aug. 2012) - The New Brunswick Union of Public and Private Employees (NBU/NUPGE) is welcoming a decision by the New Brunswick Court of Appeal.
The Court has issued a decision in NBU/NUPGE's favour in a dispute surrounding seniority-based layoff protection. In the decision, which upholds earlier rulings from grievance adjudication and the Court of Queen’s Bench, the Court ruled that the Provincial Government must honour the negotiated protections.
After having been successful at both grievance adjudication and the Court of Queen’s Bench, the Union is happy to have secured a victory at the highest Court in the province. “We are pleased to see that our collective agreement language will be honoured. Seniority rights are fundamental to Unions, and the Court’s ruling reinforces the importance of commitments made through the collective bargaining process, so this is a very important victory for us”, said NBU/NUPGE President Susie Proulx-Daigle.
The dispute, dating back to 2009, revolves around whether or not “bumping”, or layoff by reverse seniority, is permitted under the Civil Service Act, which governs the terms and conditions of employment for NBU’s members in Part I of the Civil Service.
Each of NBU/NUPGE's ten collective agreements covering members working in Part I (Administrative Assistants, Clerical and Regulatory, Education Instructional, Education Non Instructional, Engineering & Field, Highway Supervisors, ITCO, Laboratory & Medical, Resource Services and Technical Inspection) has some form of seniority-based layoff protection. The government had refused to honour that collective agreement language, insisting throughout the dispute that it conflicted with the Civil Service Act. The Union took the position that the Act and the collective agreement provisions could be read together and “harmonized” so that the employer could fulfill the obligations in the collective agreements.
The Court of Appeal decision, written by the Honourable Justice Robertson, highlights the importance of negotiated collective agreement language:
“...the implied obligation on parties to negotiate their collective agreements in good faith has its genesis in the provisions of the Public Service Labour Relations Act. The Province as employer must abide by that obligation in the knowledge of the prohibition against agreeing to provisions that would conflict with the terms and conditions of employment prescribed under the Civil Service Act. Yet the Province continues to enter into collective agreements which contain provisions covering seniority and bumping rights for its unionized civil servants. In these circumstances, it is reasonable for adjudicators to infer that the Province must be taken to have negotiated those rights on the basis they had meaning and could be enforceable.”
The dispute began with grievances filed in 2009 on behalf of certain members of the Resource Services bargaining unit and argued by NBU/NUPGE Coordinating Labour Relations Officer Leigh Sprague, who also represented NBU/NUPGE in the matter at both levels of Court. At that time, a program had been cut by the Department of Natural Resources, which refused to allow the senior employees involved to “bump” junior employees, despite the collective agreement.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE