Canada: Le droit de gérance : une notion en voie d'extinction? | L'Espace RH

Last Updated: November 15 2017
Article by Mikaël Maher

Le principe suivant est bien établi et reconnu en matière de relations de travail : en l'absence d'une disposition précise dans une convention collective imposant une obligation quelconque à l'employeur, celui-ci conserve son droit de gérance, notamment en ce qui concerne l'organisation du travail, dans la mesure où ce droit de gérance n'est pas utilisé de façon arbitraire, déraisonnable ou de mauvaise foi. Or, lorsque nous analysons des décisions arbitrales comme celle rendue par l'arbitre Bruno Leclerc dans l'affaire Transport ferroviaire Tshiuetin inc. et Syndicat des métallos, section locale 7065-75 (PDF), laquelle a été confirmée par la Cour supérieure du Québec, ce principe de droit de gérance résiduaire semble s'effriter.

Les faits

Dans cette affaire, l'entreprise ferroviaire Transport ferroviaire Tshiuetin inc., une entreprise de compétence fédérale, traverse une période économique difficile, tout comme la majorité des entreprises de la Côte-Nord du Québec au moment des événements. Dans ce contexte, l'employeur décide, pour une période déterminée, de réduire unilatéralement les heures de travail de tous ses employés réguliers à temps plein de quarante heures à trente-cinq heures par semaine.

Or, la convention collective applicable aux employés affectés par cette décision contient une clause mentionnant en termes explicites que celle-ci contient toutes les limitations sur les droits de gestion de l'employeur. De plus, cette même convention collective ne contient aucune disposition précise limitant le droit de l'employeur de réduire temporairement l'horaire de travail de ses employés.

Malgré cela, le syndicat conteste cette réduction temporaire des heures de travail de ses membres et dépose un grief individuel et un grief collectif. Il aura gain de cause.

Les décisions

Les arguments avancés par chacune des parties sont assez simples. Le syndicat prétend que l'employeur viole la convention collective puisqu'en réduisant unilatéralement les heures de travail de ses employés réguliers à temps plein, il transforme leur statut d'« employé régulier à temps plein » à « employé régulier à temps partiel » et modifie du même coup leurs conditions de travail, dont leur salaire. L'employeur, quant à lui, allègue entre autres qu'il peut temporairement réduire les heures de travail des employés puisque la convention collective ne limite aucunement ses droits de gestion à cet égard.

L'arbitre donne raison au Syndicat. Dans le cadre de son raisonnement, celui-ci s'inspire des règles d'interprétation des contrats selon lesquelles les clauses d'une convention collective doivent être interprétées les unes par rapport aux autres. Ainsi, l'arbitre décide qu'un « employé régulier à temps plein » est en fait un employé dont la semaine normale de travail est d'une durée de quarante heures par semaine et que cet employé a le droit de recevoir la rémunération qui correspond à ce nombre d'heures de travail par semaine. Il conclut alors qu'en réduisant leurs heures de travail de quarante heures à trente-cinq heures par semaine, l'employeur modifie le statut et la rémunération des employés, ce qui est contraire à la convention collective puisqu'aucune clause précise de cette convention collective n'autorise l'employeur à agir de la sorte.

La Cour supérieure du Québec confirme la décision de l'arbitre Bruno Leclerc (PDF). Elle conclut que le raisonnement articulé par l'arbitre, notamment à l'effet qu'aucune clause de la convention collective n'autorise l'employeur à réduire les heures de travail des employés, est raisonnable. À l'appui de cette conclusion, la Cour réfère à des décisions où les tribunaux ont accepté la décision de l'employeur de réduire les heures travaillées par ses employés et les distingue du cas présent. Dans une première décision, les parties avaient prévu que l'employé à temps plein travaille « habituellement » un certain nombre d'heures par semaine, et donc elles ne garantissaient pas ce nombre d'heures de travail, et dans une deuxième décision les parties avaient prévu spécifiquement qu'il n'y avait pas de garantie d'heures ou de jours travaillés malgré que la semaine régulière de travail était définie comme étant composée d'un certain nombre de jours et d'heures.

Conclusion

Les décisions dans cette affaire peuvent être vues comme des signaux d'alerte pour certains employeurs lorsqu'ils négocient et rédigent leurs conventions collectives. En effet, selon nous le raisonnement dans cette affaire semble contraire aux principes habituels de relations de travail puisque la question n'était pas de savoir si la convention collective limitait le droit de gérance de l'employeur concernant la réduction des heures de travail, mais plutôt si une clause de cette convention collective le lui permettait spécifiquement.

Les employeurs doivent donc être vigilants et savoir qu'une telle interprétation est possible. Ainsi, dans le cadre de négociations collectives, il est important d'anticiper les situations de difficultés financières, qui peuvent survenir de manière imprévisible, et ne pas garantir certaines conditions de travail qui pourraient être appelées à changer dans un tel contexte, comme le nombre d'heures travaillées par jour et par semaine.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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