Arbitrators in Action

Termination is a Risky Business.

There was a great deal of social media coverage surrounding the firing of a Hydro One employee who contributed to the sexist heckling of a news reporter, in the spring of 2015.  Many commentaries at the time included speculation as to whether or not the termination of this employee would stand.

Since the employee was represented by a union, the termination was grieved and it went to an arbitration hearing.  In this case, the arbitrator made the decision to re-instate the former employee back into employment with Hydro One.

It is interesting to note the slightly different perspectives that each media venue provides; for example,  watch the following coverage provided by Global News.

Click here to read the article.

The coverage includes the perspective of a union spokesperson providing their insight as to what the arbitrator took into consideration when making the determination for reinstatement.   It seems that the former employee’s genuine remorse and public apologies for his conduct were factors that had some influence on the resolution to this situation.  Having said that, we are not given information as to what the employer presented at this hearing, nor are we given information as to all of the facts that the arbitrator had to consider.

In a case such as this, the arbitrator’s decision is final.

What remains to be seen is how this decision will influence other cases in the future regarding the termination of an employee due to their own ‘off-duty’ conduct.

Discussion questions:

  1. Do you think employers in the future will terminate employees for similar off-duty conduct if there is a risk of reinstatement?
  2. Is the risk worth it in order to ‘send a message’ about acceptable social conduct?
  3. Do you agree with the arbitrator’s decision in this situation? Why? Why not?
  4. From a Human Resources perspective, what types of policies need to be defined clearly in the workplace about employee conduct?
  5. Identify two or three different media perspectives through internet links for this case. What are the differences in the messages from each media outlet?

Good Faith vs. Bad Faith

Nothing seems to drive a collective bargaining process into the ground more than the perception that one of the parties is not playing by the rules.  A key principle, that is enshrined in the legal process of collective bargaining, is the concept of bargaining in good faith.

It is, in fact, more than just a concept.

When parties agree to bargain in good faith, they agree to honour the rules that they make with each other before the bargaining process even begins.  These mutually agreed upon rules include items such as how communication will happen to each of the parties’ respective constituencies and, in the case of public sector bargaining, how information will be communicated to the public at large.  The setting of the ground rules between the parties is as serious as the content and the issues that are discussed at the bargaining table.  Setting the ground rules for bargaining is part of the legal environment and processes that enable fair, honest, and open negotiations to take place.

As with all kinds of rule based settings, when one of the parties appears to be breaking the rules or does not seem to be playing by the rules, the other party gets upset.  When this happens, the other party typically reacts in a negative way, which is not a surprise!  Suddenly, the issues at the table take second place, as the negotiations process stalls and hostile allegations of bad faith bargaining start to take hold.

This seems to be the case as the collective bargaining process continues to unfold in the education sector in Ontario.

Click here to read the article.

What makes this particular bargaining process more complex is that there are three parties at bargaining table: the government, the union, and the provincial association representing public school boards.  Resolutions to these types of allegations and bargaining processes are never easy.  Hopefully, all of the parties will be able to see their way through the layers of complexity and conflict in order to find a way to negotiate and to honour the bargaining process between them.

Discussion questions

  1. What was the agreed upon rule that appears to have been broken?
  2. What are the possible implications of filing a claim of bad faith with the Labour Board?
  3. Why is the issue of communication so important to each of the parties in this process?
  4. As a member of one of the bargaining teams, what steps would you take to resolve these allegations?

Let’s Celebrate Labour Day, eh?

A History Worth Understanding.

Every day that they put this legislation off to the future is more time to negotiate.”   –    Sid Ryan.

 As Canadians, we enjoy a remarkable history related to the development of unions and the labour movement.   This historic past is built on the need for social change that provides a future benefit to all of us as workers in Canada.   Most of Canadian labour history provides evidence of our more peaceful natures as powerful union leaders; such as, Sid Ryan’s use effective negotiation skills to achieve legislative changes.  There are however, critical moments in our collective history based on violence and turbulent times.  All of this history continues to be celebrated annually on Labour Day, which is a statutory Canadian federal holiday.

The importance of Labour Day and its connection to the history of the labour movement is highlighted in the following article:

Click here to read the article

Since this article was first published, in 2009, there have been numerous legislative changes that have continued to improve the lives of Canadian workers as a result of the drive and dedication of the labour movement in Canada.  The future of the labour movement in Canada is built on numerous significant events from the past.

Unions have drastically altered our society and our economy. We have all benefited from the labour movement for such things as workplace safety, greater vacation, and maternity and parental leave benefits.  When we remember the past and think about the future, do we want to live in an economy or do we want to live in a society with an economy? Unions support the latter and continue to change history as a result.

Clearly, history does not stop.   It provides us with pictures of moments in time that we may not recognize as important when they are happening. Labour Day provides us with an opportunity to celebrate our collective labour history, reflect on those important moments in time, and to honour our past as we look to the future.

Discussion Questions:

  1. This article is dated from 2009. Identify new workplace legislation that has been implemented since that time either federally or in the province where you live. What is the link between each piece of new legislation and the labour movement?
  2. What types of workplace benefits do you enjoy as a result of the labour movement in Canada?
  3. Which historic labour-related event do you think has had the most impact on the lives of Canadian workers?
  4. How do you celebrate labour day?
  5. Will you participate in the next Labour Day parade in your community? Why or why not?
  6. What would prompt you to participate in a Labour Day parade?

HR Practitioner & the Hiring Manager

Working the relationship

All too often, we, as HR Practitioners fall into the trap of ‘owning’ the entire recruitment and staffing process. Is this because we want the control, or, is it because the supervisor does not want to take it on? After all, it is HR’s responsibility to ensure that the process is done effectively from the very beginning, before a vacancy is even created, to the very end, when the successful candidate is in place and working with the equally successful hiring manager.

We do all of the work and yet, final decisions are, typically, not in the control of the HR Practitioner.

Click here to view the article.

Our challenge is to find ways to work effectively with the hiring manager in order to ensure that good decisions are made. HR recruiters, as noted in the article above, need to work and understand what managers are looking for, and also, to whom they are connected. HR may have a central role in any organization, but we may not have expansive knowledge about business practices or required expertise to fill specific roles as positional or subject matter experts.

Source: Tumblr. The above content constitutes a link to the source website.

Sometimes we impose our own HR processes and timelines on to the overwhelmed and overworked hiring manager, who does not understand or appreciate why ‘our’ processes and timelines are important. If the HR Practitioner is able to make pro-active connections with each hiring manager, then there should be mutual benefit for both.

Discussion Questions:

  • Do you agree that there can be mutual benefit for both HR practitioner and Hiring Manager, if proactive connections are made?
  • What steps can you take when assigned to work with a hiring manager who is too busy to commit to ‘your’ HR processes?
  • What can you do to pro-actively encourage a positive decision-making result when working with a hiring manager?

HR and the Interview Setting

Should HR Practitioners know what they are doing in an interview setting?  Whose role is it anyway?

As Human Resources Practitioners, we are often called upon to be the organizational role model for employee behaviour. It’s easy, then, to become the target for how to do things wrong, when the expectation is that the HR Practitioner should always be doing things right.  Right?

Why is HR expected to be perfect? It is because it is so important to organizational success!

A great example of this comes from the following article which reveals that twenty percent of HR practitioners were involved in asking illegal interview questions!   How is that even possible?   If HR cannot get it right, what are supervisors expected to do?

man with fingers crossed
dolgachov/Thinkstock

Click here to view the article.

The article states that, in some cases, HR practitioners are involved in asking questions that focus on religious preferences and practices, disabilities, and gender based issues. When this occurs, the article recommends correcting the situation immediately by addressing the question of concern and ensuring that the person being interviewed knows that the question asked was inappropriate and is not an acceptable practice. Is this solution a little bit of “too little, too late”?

The article has some great comments – many of them harshly critical of the role of HR in the interview process, including the perception that HR practitioners are ‘liars’ and, “Liars are not leaders”. If HR practitioners are regarded as liars then what does that say about the rest of the organization as represented by HR?  The article and the comments may make for uncomfortable reading and show how quickly HR can lose credibility if we do not know what we are doing!   If HR does not have credibility, then what is its value?

Discussion Questions:

  • What are three practices that HR must include in preparing for interviews?
  • How will I address members of an interview panel when they go ‘off script’ or outside of legal boundaries?
  • Have I been in an interview where the HR practitioner has made me feel uncomfortable?
  • How will I lead in the role of HR to avoid being called a liar?
  • How do I continually improve the credibility of HR?
  • What will I do to address issues of accommodation when they come up in an interview setting?