Canada Employment and Immigration Union -
June 1, 2007

When the rules don’t apply

There are countless rules around our salaries and entitlements. Many flow from our collective agreement, others from government regulations. When a CEIU member in Ontario signed an agreement for an acting appointment, she was shocked to find the employer later backing away from the salary they promised. She was told the promise violated the rules and that an overpayment of almost $2000 would be recovered. She challenged the decision with a grievance – and won.

The member, a CR-5, had acted as a PM-3. After returning to her CR-5 position, she was offered an acting appointment at the PM-2 level. Because of her previous experience as a PM-3, her manager agreed to pay her at the top level of the PM-2 salary scale. The precise salary figure was written into her acting appointment agreement and the member was paid accordingly. It was only later that the employer announced the agreement violated the rules and initiated overpayment recovery action.

The rules in this case were the Public Service Terms and Conditions of Employment Regulations. According to these regulations, the member had indeed been overpaid. But for the member and her CEIU staff representative, Jan Armstrong, that wasn’t the point.

The union argued that the agreement signed by the member and her manager was a contract that must be honoured. It was also argued that the member had relied, to her detriment, on the commitment set out in the agreement and had made financial commitments based on it.

In the clash between the rules and the signed agreement, the agreement won. At the final level of the grievance procedure, the employer agreed to make an ex gratia payment to the member for the amount that had been recovered from her.

Rules may be rules, but they don’t always apply. A written agreement deserves to be respected, and grievance action ensured that this one was.

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