The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (Teamsters) has applied to the Federal Court of Canada for an Order against Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) for contempt of court. The application seeks fines against CP of $50,000 per day for making conductors and engineers work late, after the end of their shift. Worker fatigue and hours of work are significant issues in the industry.
The Court application relies on an arbitration award issued in 2018 in Teamsters Canada Rail Conference v Canadian Pacific Railway, 2018 CanLII 27194 (CA LA). The Award found that CP had violated the 10 hour rule in the Collective Agreement and that there were a high number of examples where an employee’s right to be off work after 10 hours was not respected. The Arbitrator issued a cease and desist order to allow employees to be off work as required by the Collective Agreement. The Award noted that exceptions were allowed for “act of God” or other reasons, and the exceptions would have to be assessed in each case. The Arbitrator reserved jurisdiction over other remedies.
It is unusual to seek additional remedies from a Court without first requesting remedies from an Arbitrator. However, the enforcement of an Arbitration Award by a Court is not unusual. The enforcement of an Award first requires the filing of the Award in the Court and then a Court Order. In the case of a cease and desist order, which is an order in the nature of an injunction issued by a court, a common enforcement order would be an application for a fine for contempt of court. In this case, the Arbitration Award had pointed out that individual cases would need to be assessed to determine if there was a violation of the 10 hour rule, or whether one of the exceptions to the rule applied. However, in this case the application by the Teamsters to determine the violation on a case by case basis was not made to the Arbitrator in the first instance.
The Courts in Canada will defer to Arbitrators where the issue arises out of the Collective Agreement (see Supreme Court of Canada decision in Weber v. Ontario Hydro, 1995 CanLII 108 (SCC)). This case raises issues of violation of the Collective Agreement, versus enforcement of an existing Arbitrator’s Award. The issues are described in the following news article about the case: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cp-labor-focus/union-seeks-rare-court-action-against-cp-rail-to-cap-working-hours-idUSKBN1YO1E8. It will be interesting to see how the Court responds to the application and the Employer’s objection that the case does not belong before the Court.