Canada Employment and Immigration Union -
September 6, 2007

Case review: overtime distribution and productivity

Important win on overtime case by CEIU local 574

Members at local 574 (Scarborough) have successfully challenged management’s decision to limit overtime opportunities at their office. According to the contract, overtime work is to be distributed equitably among qualified and available staff, but the employer tried limit opportunities by claiming the office had low productivity. The adjudicator ruling on the grievances clearly sided with our members.

Local 574 President Kim Christoffersen welcomed the decision: “The issues here were fair treatment for our members and respect for our union contract.” She went on to credit her members who filed grievances against the employer’s action, saying “Management would have gotten away with it if people had not spoken up.”

The case

The grievances (Files: 166-02-35642 to 35650) were filed in February 2002. The grievors processed employment insurance claims at the Scarborough, Ontario office of what was then Human Resources Development Canada. They grieved management’s decision to deny them overtime opportunities and to assign overtime work instead to other offices in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) using the “one-workload” approach.

The grievors based their case on clause 28.05(a) of the collective agreement which provides:

Subject to the operational requirements, the Employer shall make every reasonable effort to avoid excessive overtime and to offer overtime work on an equitable basis among readily available qualified employees.

Despite the clear language of the contract, the employer informed staff at the Scarborough office that “Overtime will be allowed when productivity targets at straight time have been met.”

While some managers had been unhappy with the productivity levels of the Scarborough office, other witnesses at the adjudication hearing, including a former supervisor, testified that the office had “always got a bum rap”. These witnesses pointed out that the diversity of clients in Scarborough had a strong impact on productivity because it took longer to deal with clients who did not speak English.

The decision

The productivity issue did not play a role in the adjudicator’s decision. The focus, instead, was on the wording of the contract and the evidence presented. On this basis, the adjudicator found that the employer had violated the contract’s provisions regarding overtime work. While the union and the employer were left to work out the details of what was owed to each of the grievors, the adjudicator did order that compensation for any lost overtime be awarded in cash.

CEIU members with questions regarding issues in their workplace, including overtime distribution, are asked to speak with their local steward or CEIU regional office.

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