‘We’ll get ’em next time’

Barb Sweet
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Nurses lose Supreme Court of Canada appeal on leave entitlement

Newfoundland and Labrador Nurses’ Union president Debbie Forward said the union is disappointed to lose a Supreme Court of Canada appeal over casual nurses and leave entitlement. — File photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

The Newfoundland and Labrador Nurses’ Union (NLNU) has lost an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada and must pay costs.

The court heard arguments in October in the appeal launched by the NLNU, relating to an arbitration decision on whether casual service should be counted toward annual leave entitlement for nurses when they become permanent employees.

The arbitrator agreed with the employer — Labrador-Grenfell Health Board — that it shouldn’t be counted.

“Arbitration allows the parties to the agreement to resolve disputes as quickly as possible knowing that there is the relieving prospect not of judicial review, but of negotiating a new collective agreement with different terms at the end of two or three years. 

This process would be paralyzed if arbitrators were expected to respond to every argument or line of possible analysis,” the Supreme Court of Canada said in a unanimous ruling released Thursday.

“In this case, the reasons showed that the arbitrator was alive to the question at issue and came to a result well within the range of reasonable outcomes.”

NLNU president Debbie Forward said the union would have preferred to win the case, obviously, but it is taking solace in the fact the country’s top court even gave it leave to appeal, proving there was something to be argued.

“I’m proud of our staff who were involved in it. It was a first for us,” Forward said Thursday.

“As I said to the staff, ‘We’ll get ’em next time.’”

Forward said there’s still opportunity for the union to pursue a change in contract language in future negotiations.

As for costs, Forward said the union knew going into the case that was a risk.

According to a court summary of the case, the union grievance initially argued an employer had improperly deducted annual leave hours for a group of nurses.

The health authority claimed there had been an error in the original calculation of the nurses’ leave entitlement because their casual work had been improperly included.

The arbitrator concluded, under the terms of the nurses’ collective agreement, they couldn’t use their years of service as casual employees for the purpose of calculating vacation entitlement once they became permanent employees.

Under the definition of casual employee in the NLNU agreement, casual employees are not entitled to certain benefits, including entitlement to vacation with pay. Instead, casual employees receive a 20 per cent wage premium.

The NLNU said this clause doesn’t deal with the service issue and entitlement to annual leave when nurses who were casual are hired on a permanent basis. In asking for a judicial review, the union claimed vacation entitlement should be calculated on the basis of service, including hours worked as a casual employee.

The arbitration decision was initially appealed by the NLNU in the Newfoundland Supreme Court Trial Division, on the basis the arbitrator didn’t provide sufficient reasons for the decision. The court agreed there were no reasons in the award to justify the outcome and ordered a new arbitration hearing.

The employer, however, appealed that ruling and the Newfoundland Court of Appeal subsequently ruled in its favour, concluding there were sufficient reasons in the arbitrator’s decision to justify denying the grievance.


Organizations: Supreme Court of Canada, Labrador-Grenfell Health Board, Newfoundland Supreme Court Trial Division Newfoundland Court

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Recent comments

  • Harry Coates
    December 16, 2011 - 18:48

    We know who the "them" are, and we know who the "we" are! Where are the patients? I know!! We'll have to await the next squabble bewteen the union leadership and the employer to find out.

  • roy
    December 16, 2011 - 18:15

    I agree with those who said the 'ems" are the taxpayers who supported the nurses in their negotations for higher wages it is those supporters who will pay the bill as "em" next time because she is refering to upcoming negotations. Greed is like power and like power supreme power corrupts as does supreme greed.

  • Harry Coates
    December 16, 2011 - 12:54

    We know who the "them" are, and we know who the "we" are! Where are the patients? I know!! We'll have to await the next squabble bewteen the union leadership and the employer to find out.

  • flexxa
    December 16, 2011 - 12:49

    the "em" Ms. Forward is referring too - are they the NL taxpayers?

  • That's Right
    December 16, 2011 - 12:32

    I would imagine two things: NLNU seeks legal opinions as necessary (they didn't become one of the strongest unions in the province by being governed by dummies),and the willingness of the Supreme Court of Canada to hear the case, based on its merits, would probably trump any other legal opinion sought or offered. Unfortunately, too, it is not uncommon for uninformed people to take a comment out of context and misue it to promote their own agenda. The benefit to Registered Nurses, had the Court decided in their favour, was the potential of having all years of service recognized for annual leave purposes, which would be a significant achievement for Registered Nurses as a group, while making a significant difference in the lives of many individual Registered Nurses as well. The case was not about greedy NLNU leadership (how preposterous!) but about protecting and fighting for member rights. It's just annoying how people who know very little, if anything, about an issue will use it to bash unions or union leaders. Those people might at least sound intelligent if they did their homework and commented on the issue itself.

  • flexxa
    December 16, 2011 - 12:28

    the "em" Ms. Forward is referring too - are they the NL taxpayers?

  • Sore Loser...
    December 16, 2011 - 12:10

    The fact that she would utter such words clearly shows the state of unions in this province. A the core belief that unions were founded on was for the protection of the worker. Not to "get en next time". These days, it seems like the unions are more like corporations than the corporations that they are fighting against. All they want is to increase their membership and collect more and more dues. Do the workers really get anything out of it? Are any of the nurses (or offshore oil workers, or teachers, or metrobus or whoever) really getting treated that badly? How much does this or any union these days really do for the membership? Are they fighting for the rights of the worker or protecting the lazy? Communism is also good in theory.

    • That's Right
      December 16, 2011 - 14:44

      Not to belabour the point SORE LOSER but 'getting them next time' WOULD be protecting the worker. And I dunno--maybe you should ask any of the Registered Nurses (or offshore oil workers or teahcers or metrobus or whoever) if they are "really getting treated that badly." And I suppose you could any thinking person in this province, and the likely answer would be that unions do great work for their members--I would be willing to bet that non-union thinking people would acknowledge that too. Hmmm, I wonder is that where the clue lies to your username?...

  • Joe
    December 16, 2011 - 10:05

    Ms Forward is obivously a sore loser. Perhaps some of the money the NLNU threw away on this case could have been used to get a good legal opinion before proceeding and throwing away her members hard earned money!!

  • Island Lady
    December 16, 2011 - 09:24

    this union leader is a great leader. She tells it as it is .... in SIMPLE LANGUAGE that cuts straight across your mind ,. She is there for her members and have always been.

  • Mark
    December 16, 2011 - 08:53

    Nurses are angels on Earth. Their union leadership is something else.

  • That's Right
    December 16, 2011 - 08:22

    What the comment "We'll get 'em next time" says about NLNU leadership is that they will continue to fight for what they believe is right for their membership. I believe that's what unions do, isn't it? Did you mean to find fault with that Political Watcher?

  • Don
    December 16, 2011 - 08:10

    "We'll get them next time." Sounds like some punk who just got beat up, not like a leader of a group of professional people.

  • Political watcher
    December 16, 2011 - 06:19

    “As I said to the staff, ‘We’ll get ’em next time.’” This comment says it all about the mentality of this Union leadrship

    • Ron
      December 16, 2011 - 09:36

      I would like to know, what the cost of this arugment was to the union membership. Greed.