Canada: Le Droit Au Retour Au Travail À La Suite D'une Lésion Professionnelle : Allez Relire Vos Conventions Collectives

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Le 24 novembre dernier, la Cour d'appel du Québec a rendu une décision unanime1 qui est venue clarifier l'état du droit quant à la cohabitation des dispositions d'une convention collective relatives au droit au retour au travail avec les dispositions d'ordre public énoncées dans la Loi sur les accidents du travail et les maladies professionnelles (LATMP)2. La Cour d'appel confirme qu'une convention collective peut prévoir des droits de retour au travail à la suite d'une lésion professionnelle qui vont au-delà des droits conférés par la LATMP. C'est alors l'arbitre de grief qui sera compétent pour trancher les litiges relatifs à ces droits supplémentaires. Ainsi, les employeurs qui ont déjà inclus de tels droits supplémentaires dans leur convention collective devront y porter une attention particulière puisqu'ils pourraient devoir se soumettre à la procédure de grief et avoir à offrir un emploi qui ne se qualifierait pas nécessairement d'emploi convenable au sens de la LATMP.

Les faits

La Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CSST) a rendu une décision finale statuant sur l'emploi convenable pour un travailleur syndiqué qui a été victime d'une lésion professionnelle lui ayant causé des limitations fonctionnelles permanentes. Ce poste n'existant pas chez son employeur, le travailleur a été affecté à des tâches légères lors de ses nombreuses tentatives de retour au travail. Près de cinq ans après la détermination de l'emploi convenable par la CSST, l'employeur a décidé de congédier le travailleur en raison du fait que ce poste n'existait toujours pas chez lui. Le syndicat a déposé des griefs pour contester cette mesure.

Lors de l'audition de ces griefs portant sur la notion du droit au retour au travail, l'employeur a plaidé avec succès l'absence de compétence de l'arbitre au profit de la compétence exclusive de la CSST sur ces questions. La Cour supérieure a infirmé cette décision et a retourné le dossier à l'arbitre pour qu'il se prononce sur le fond des griefs. L'employeur a fait appel de cette décision de la Cour supérieure.

Le jugement de la Cour d'appel

La première question à laquelle devait répondre la Cour d'appel portait sur la possibilité pour les parties à une convention collective de prévoir, en matière de retour au travail, des conditions plus avantageuses que celles de la LATMP. Le cas échéant, la Cour devait déterminer qui avait compétence pour entendre un litige portant sur l'application de ces dispositions conventionnelles.

Pour répondre à cette question, la Cour s'en est remise à l'article 4, al. 2 LATMP qui stipule qu'une « convention ou une entente [...] peut prévoir pour un travailleur des dispositions plus avantageuses que celles que prévoit la présente loi ». Ainsi, l'interprétation d'une telle clause par un arbitre de grief n'entrera pas dans le champ de compétence de la CSST3 ou celui de la CLP4.

Ensuite, en répondant par l'affirmative à la première question, la Cour devait déterminer si, en l'espèce, la convention collective contenait une telle disposition. Comme la convention collective prévoyait que le retour au travail du salarié pouvait se faire « à un autre poste que son état de santé lui permet d'occuper », la Cour a décidé que cela englobait plus de possibilités que l'emploi convenable prévu à la LATMP5.

Les modalités pratiques de l'exercice du droit au retour au travail prévues dans la convention collective étant donc plus généreuses que celles prévues dans la LATMP, un arbitre de grief saisi d'un litige quant à l'application de celles-ci avait tout à fait la compétence pour s'en saisir6.

La Cour a donc rejeté l'appel de l'employeur et décidé que l'arbitre allait devoir évaluer la capacité du salarié à effectuer les tâches des postes visés par les griefs.

Analyse

La juge Bich est clairement venue affirmer que lorsqu'une convention collective confère, au travailleur victime d'une lésion professionnelle, des droits plus étendus que ceux prévus dans la LATMP, un litige découlant de leur application se rapportera à la convention collective spécifiquement, hors du champ de la LATMP. Il s'agit d'un ajout à la LATMP, par ailleurs tout à fait légal et même prévu dans la loi, par opposition à la création d'un régime parallèle à la LATMP et qui ne serait pas permis par celle-ci. Sur ce dernier point, la juge a également mentionné qu'un arbitre statuant sur de telles dispositions ne pourra toutefois pas « rejeter, réfuter ou discuter les déterminations de la CSST [...] au sujet de l'existence de la lésion professionnelle, de la capacité du salarié à reprendre son emploi prélésionnel, de ses limitations fonctionnelles ou de l'emploi convenable ».

En ce sens, la portée des arrêts SEPAQ7 et Tembec8 est clarifiée. Dans ces affaires, les conventions collectives ne contenaient, relativement au droit au retour au travail, aucune disposition plus avantageuse que celles de la LATMP. Les arbitres étaient donc justifiés de décliner compétence, devant céder le pas à celle, exclusive, de la CSST (et ultimement de la CLP).

En conclusion, les employeurs jugeant utile ou nécessaire de traiter de ces sujets dans leurs conventions collectives devront désormais être sur leurs gardes : si les droits qu'ils accordent en matière de retour au travail sont plus généreux que ceux prévus dans la LATMP, ils devront se soumettre à la procédure de grief en cas de litige et pourraient devoir offrir à un travailleur un emploi n'ayant pas été qualifié par la CSST de convenable au sens de la LATMP.

Footnotes

1. Université McGill c McGill University Non Academic Certified Association (MUNACA), 2015 QCCA 1943. Dans une décision rendue deux jours après la présente affaire, la Cour d'appel a appliqué le même raisonnement et en est venue aux mêmes conclusions : Montréal-Est (Ville de) c Syndicat des cols bleus regroupés de Montréal, section locale 301, 2015 QCCA 1957

2. L.R.Q. c. A-3.001

3. Ibid, art. 349

4. Ibid, art. 369

5. Ibid, art. 170

6. Ibid, art. 244

7. Société des établissements de plein air du Québec c Syndicat de la fonction publique du Québec, 2009 QCCA 329

8. Syndicat canadien des communications, de l'énergie et du papier, section locale 427 c Tembec, Usine de Matane, 2012 QCCA 179

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