Arbitration results regarding Add One/Drop One clause
Following the ratification of the 2017 – 2021 Collective Agreement between University of Regina Academic Staff Members and the University of Regina, URFA filed a policy grievance. URFA held that the negotiated agreement about the Add One/Drop One provision would result in a salary increase for all employees, not just those at the top and bottom of the pay grid. This was the topic of the grievance that went to arbitration in October and November 2020. Following arbitration, the grievance has been denied.
Why did URFA file a grievance?
Some of the discussion around the Add One/Drop One provision that took place during bargaining led to different interpretations between URFA and the University of Regina as to how this provision would be implemented.
URFA’s understanding, based on the discussions with the University of Regina, was that all employees would receive a salary increase, regardless of their location on the pay grid. The result would be that all staff would receive an annual increment increase as well as an additional increase due to moving up a level on the pay grid. The exception was that those at the top of the pay grid would receive only one increase.
The University of Regina’s interpretation was that the Add One/Drop One provision would be implemented as it had been in previous collective agreements, resulting in an increase for only those at the top and bottom of the pay grid.
What did URFA seek through the grievance?
URFA submitted that the University’s statements around the interpretation of the Add One/Drop One provision were possibly made in bad faith to entice the union into an agreement that it had no intention of honouring.
URFA sought a ruling in support of URFA’s interpretation of how to implement the Add One/Drop One provision. Alternatively, URFA sought a declaration that the University acted in bad faith and that URFA relied on the doctrine of promissory estoppel to assert that the legal threshold for a promise was met in this case. URFA asked for a declaration that the University was in breach of the collective agreement and an order be made that the breach be corrected retroactive to July 1, 2019.
What did the arbitrators conclude?
After reviewing submissions from both URFA and the University of Regina, the grievance was denied.
The arbitrator’s conclusions were as follows:
- That the employer did not knowingly act in bad faith or make misrepresentations to the union. Rather, the subjective understanding of both parties about the Add One/Drop One clause were that they each believed something different.
- The verbal statements of the employer representatives concerning the implementation of the Add One/Drop One provision are not sufficient to preclude it from acting on its strict legal rights, which have been determined to be in accord with the University’s interpretation of implementation.
- That the basic elements to support the application of equitable estoppel are absent based on the facts before us.
- There is no doubt the union was placed in a difficult situation because of a serious misunderstanding at the negotiating table but based on the objective evidence, the arbitrator cannot place the responsibility for the misunderstanding on the employer.
What happens now?
URFA has learned a great deal from this experience and is taking steps to ensure that future negotiating committees are aware of the circumstances that lead to this difference of opinion and how to avoid such misunderstandings moving forward.
What does this mean for me as a University of Regina Academic Staff Member?
There will be no change to the existing pay of Academic Staff Members at the University of Regina. The arbitrators concluded that the University has implemented the Add One/Drop One provision in accordance with the language of the Collective Agreement. URFA members who are located at the top and bottom of the pay grid have received their increase. Employees who are in the middle of the pay grid maintain their increased earning potential but will not receive an additional increase.