No remedy for unionized service employee banned by the employer’s only client for poor service.

In Waste Management of Canada Corporation and Teamsters, Local Union 419, a garbage truck driver lost his job with his employer when the employer’s only client, the Region of Peel, banned him from working on the contract due to customer service complaints. 

The employer agreed that the Region’s allegations did not constitute just cause, and that no due process – such as an investigation – had taken place.  The employer said this was irrelevant because once the client banned the grievor, there was no work for him, and no alternative but to terminate employment for lack of work.

Ontario Arbitrator Dana Randall agreed, despite the Union’s argument that such a result robbed the grievor of procedural and substantive protections provided by the collective agreement. 

Arbitrator Randall said that where there is no specific protection provided in the collective agreement for an employee banned from the worksite by a client, the employer is only required to show that its decision was motivated entirely by non-disciplinary considerations: namely, lack of work for the grievor.

As long as the employer did not assist or support the client’s decision-making, and had no involvement in the assessment of the wrongdoing of the grievor, and attempted to persuade the client to change its mind, the Arbitrator said the employer could not be found to have breached the collective agreement.  In the absence of a breach, there was no remedy for the grievor.

What this means for you

This is good news for unionized employers with a single service contract providing the client with final say over employees working on the contract. Such employers can remove banned employees from the job and terminate for lack of work, without breaching the just cause provisions of the collective agreement.

Be warned that, as in all cases, the facts play a large role on outcome.  The reasoning is dependent on there being no work available for the grievor.  If alternative work exists (e.g., on another contract with a different client who does not object) the employer may have a responsibility to reassign the grievor, rather than terminate.