NSGEU filed a policy grievance for employees with Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. The grievance was referred to adjudication and Arbitrator Bruce Archibald made a decision in favour of the Union on December 4th, 2017. Arbitrator Archibald found that the Department of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations breached Article 21 – Vacations of the Civil Service Master Agreement when it denied the vacation requests of Customer Service Representatives in the Truro Access Nova Scotia office because of the “one off at any time” rule.
The Award provides the following guidance for assessing future vacation denials by the Employer:
- If the Employer relies on “operational requirements” to deny a vacation request, the Employer’s determination of what constitutes an operational requirement has to be reasonable.
- The Employer must make every reasonable effort to grant vacations in the amount and at such time as is consistent with a reasonable understanding of the Employer’s operational requirements.
- The Employer has to balance its operational requirements (reasonably determined) with employee vacation entitlement.
- The Employer may have to bear the cost of finding relief personnel, more casuals, or whatever is required to get the job done, in order to provide employees with their vacation entitlements.
- The Employer must consider reasonable alternatives for granting an employee’s vacation request.
- The employee and the Union have a right to know the substance of the reason for a vacation request denial; it is not sufficient for the Employer to state as the reason “you are denied for operational reasons.”
What does this mean for the Employer’s current practice of “2 off at any time” except for defined peak periods, when the “1 off at any time” rule applies?
It is arguable that the use of both rules to deny vacation requests breaches Article 21, for the reasons given by Arbitrator Archibald. The “2 off at any time” rule appears to be just as arbitrary as the “1 off at any time” rule. The Employer has failed to consider the numerous reasonable alternatives to allowing the vacation requests, or to provide detailed substantive reasons for denials.
Although the grievance pertained to Service Nova Scotia employees, it strengthens the rights of all members and provides guidance for employers as to their obligations in assessing vacation requests.
I would like to thank all the members who were involved in this process. This victory will assist our members in future disputes when it comes to vacation scheduling. If in the future your vacation is denied by your Employer and you feel they have not properly assessed your request, please contact NSGEU at 902 424-4063 or toll free at 1-877-556-7438 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Employee Relations Officer