A recent Alberta Court of Appeal decision (Alberta Health
Services v. Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, July 5,
2013) has taught an employer a vital lesson about time limits in a
collective agreement. The collective agreement in question said
that “disciplinary action” “will be taken within
fifteen (15) days... of the date the Employer first became aware
of, or reasonably should have become aware of the occurrence of the
act.” The employer fired the employee one day late. The
arbitrator said the time limit was mandatory and therefore the
discharge was void. The Chambers judge disagreed but the Court of
Appeal reinstated the arbitrator’s decision.
If you don’t want vital actions like discharges to be
defeated by technicalities, then don’t agree to such time
limits. If you are stuck with them, then you must assume they are
mandatory and be very careful to operate within them.
In a similar way, this decision is good news for employers who
want grievances dismissed that were filed outside the collective
agreement time limits.
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