In Fabrene Inc. v International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Local Lodge 2922 employees who were Union Grievance Committee (“UGC”) members unsuccessfully argued that the hours they spent attending Labour Management meetings on their days off constituted compensable overtime.

Factual Background

The UGC members worked 12-hour day shifts on Monday and Tuesday, 12-hour night shifts on Thursday and Friday, and attended Labour Management meetings on Wednesday, their scheduled day off.  The meetings – which were held on the third Wednesday of each month at 1:30 p.m. – varied in length from 1 to 3 hours and addressed a combination of management and union issues and initiatives.  UGC members would arrive at the union office at 8:00 a.m. on the day of the meeting to begin preparing for the meeting.  Where UGC members were scheduled to work on the night prior or the night of the meeting, they were not expected to attend for work.

Article V of the collective agreement stated that the Fabrene would pay 4 hours’ pay if the UGC member was on a scheduled day off and attended a Labour Management meeting.  However, Article XI of the collective agreement provided that “regular scheduled hours” in excess of 44 hours per week would be paid at the rate of time and one half.

The Positions of the Union and Employer

The union took the position that because the meetings were held monthly at predetermined times and dates, they constituted “regular scheduled hours” within Article XI.  Consequently, the union argued that UGC members should be paid at 1.5 times their regular rate for 8 hours given that the total hours worked during the weeks they attended UGC meetings was 52 hours, 8 hours above the 44-hour threshold in Article XI.  The union further argued that because the meetings were expressly contemplated in the collective agreement, the meetings provided a shared benefit to Fabrene and the union and, therefore, that the meetings constituted compensable work.

Not surprisingly, Fabrene disagreed, taking the position that the union had negotiated a flat 4-hour stipend for attendance at Labour Management meetings.  Fabrene further argued that UGC members attended UGC meetings not for the benefit of their employer, but rather as union representatives on behalf of their bargaining agent.  As a result, the Fabrene argued, time spent at Labour Management meetings did not qualify as “time worked” for attracting overtime premiums either pursuant to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 or the collective agreement.

Decision

Arbitrator Hayes agreed with Fabrene.  Specifically, the arbitrator found it impossible to overlook that the parties had “turned their collective minds directly to the issue at hand”, and that Article V of their collective agreement explicitly stated that Fabrene agreed to pay 4 hours’ pay for meetings attended by UGC members on their day off. Furthermore, Arbitrator Hayes found that the meetings did not constitute “time worked”, stating that in attending UGC meetings the UGC members were “no more performing work for the Employer than they would be doing should they access negotiated paid leave to participate in collective bargaining.”

Written with Scott Thorner, summer student.

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