Summary of Arbitration Award
Arbitrator Sydney Baxter issued his award on September 16th, 2016 regarding a grievance filed by the Association of Postal Officials of Canada which alleged that Canada Post Corporation was failing to ensure the corporate uniform was being worn by Association uniformed members.
The Association submitted that the Collective Agreement, article 48, clearly requires the Corporation to provide specific members of the Association with uniforms and protective clothing that are to be worn for the purposes of identification, protection from the elements and injury on duty. Further, that the employees who are provided with the uniforms and protective clothing are required to wear them.
The Corporation submitted that he only way to enforce the Dress Code Policy was to impose discipline. However, the imposition of discipline is a management right which is based on the reasonable exercise of management’s discretion. As such, the Corporation would not compel Association members to wear their uniforms in every situation, rather they would continue to utilize their discretion in enforcing the Policy.
The Arbitrator identified the issue as whether there is an obligation on the Corporation to ensure that Association members wear their issued uniforms. The Arbitrator found that the Corporation was obligated to ensure that Association members wear their uniforms in accordance with the Collective Agreement (article 48.12.1). The Arbitrator posited that if an Association member was seen drinking in a public bar while in uniform, that such conduct would probably not be tolerated by the Corporation. In essence, the Corporation cannot pick and choose when it will enforce the Policy.
The Arbitrator also found that the obligation to ensure the wearing of the uniform is supported by article 48.12.2. This clause provides that employees cannot substitute an item of regular clothing for that issued unless they have given a reason for so doing, which is acceptable to the Corporation. In other words, they must ask for permission from the Corporation. Given that this rule is contained in the Collective Agreement, the Corporation is not entitled to alter or amend this rule unilaterally and any changes to this rule must be bargained.
The Arbitrator did recognize the difference between the discretion to enforce or not enforce the uniform rule v. the discretion to impose or not impose discipline. However, the Arbitrator did acknowledge that, if no other action has the desired result Corporation may need to resort to warning employees that failure to do so may result in discipline.
For these reasons the Arbitrator sustained the grievance and declared that the Corporation is in violation of the terms of the Collective Agreement for failing to enforce the policy regarding wearing of uniforms for Association members.