Arbitrator restores fire worker’s job – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – July 25, 2012)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

An arbitrator has given a fired Steelworker his job back. Wes Rayner has ruled that Vale Inco must reinstate Mike Courchesne, one of nine Steelworkers fired during the union’s year-long strike against the miner, provided he passes a standard medical test.

If all goes well, Courchesne should be back on the job within a month, said his lawyer, Brian Shell. Both Courchesne and his union were “ecstatic” about the decision, Shell said Tuesday afternoon.

“Right from the beginning, it was the union’s view the people fired during the strike should not have been fired, and that the company overreacted to the allegations the company believed they had,” Shell said after the decision was rendered. Nine strikers were fired for alleged misconduct on picket lines in the community during the nasty labour dispute.
One, John Landry, retired after the strike ended in July 2010. Steelworkers Adam Cowie and Dan Labelle have found employment elsewhere and do not want to return to Vale, said Shell.

That leaves five cases to be settled in arbitration ordered Feb. 24 of this year by the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
Vale fought against having the dismissals dealt with by a third party, arguing it had the right to discipline employees.
Rayner’s decision isn’t public, but Shell said the arbitrator indicated he ruled in Courchesne’s favour because the allegations against him by Vale “didn’t warrant discharge. And, in the particular circumstances Courchesne was facing at that moment in his life, the company over-reacted.”

Rayner said there was some improper conduct by Courchesne, but it didn’t “rise to the level of justifying discharge,” said the union lawyer.

“Discharge has to be for just cause and the reality is, the company overreacted, they reacted too harshly and they likely overreacted because the incident occurred on the picket line.”

The firings couldn’t be resolved in collective bargaining where most cases of strike misconduct are handled. Shell said it is “very rare” that picket-line offences “rise to the level to justify discharge.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Sudbury Star website: