Archive of the categories: Collective Agreements

Jurisdiction of Court in dispute involving employee subject to collective agreement: James v Northern Lakes College, 2013 ABCA 408 (CanLII)

  • The case is here
  • employee was bound by collective agreement
  • employment was terminated
  • employee grieved and filed Statement of Claim
  • request for grievance denied
  • employer applied to have Statement of Claim struck on basis that legislation gave exclusive jurisdiction of the dispute to process set out in collective agreement
  • Statement of Claim struck
  • Employee appeals to Court of Queen’s Bench: denied
  • Appealed to Court of Appeal
  • Court of Appeal:
    • at paragraph 8:  “Courts often lack jurisdiction over these claims when they arise from the interpretation, application, administration or violation of a collective agreement and are therefore subject to the dispute resolution procedures in that collective agreement”
    • at paragraph 9: “There may be rare instances where a court retains residual jurisdiction to hear labour disputes”
  • Employee argued: “this is such an instance because (1) the dispute involves a discriminatory clause in a collective agreement (i.e. that probationary employees may grieve claims but may not arbitrate them), and (2) [employee] was otherwise barred from accessing the grievance process and receiving effective redress” paragraph 9) (emphasis added)
  • In response to Argument #1 Court of Appeal states: “Employers may provide fewer rights to probationary employees than non-probationary employees without this amounting to “discrimination”
  • In response to Argument #2 the Court of Appeal states at paragraph 11:

[…] Mr. James argues that a court may take jurisdiction where the grievance process fails to provide effective redress. Although I am sympathetic that his claims have gone unaddressed, the statutory scheme is not the cause. The chambers judge found that Mr. James could and did attempt to grieve his termination, but that his request was denied. I agree that the appropriate route to challenge this decision would have been judicial review. Mr. James argues that he was also denied access to arbitration as a probationary employee. However, Vaughan states that arbitration is not necessary for an aggrieved party to have effective redress, and that a lack of access to independent arbitration is not a sufficient reason in itself for courts to get involved in labour disputes. I find no basis on which to distinguish Vaughan from this case.

  • Appeal denied

The decision is not groundbreaking but it highlights the value of front-end advice from an employment lawyer. The outcome may have been different had the employee pursued a judicial review of the decision to reject his grievance.