Disciplining unionized workers

How to approach suspensions if the collective agreement is silent
By Colin Gibson
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 10/01/2012

Question: Can a unionized employer suspend an employee if the collective agreement doesn’t mention suspension as a form of discipline? How should an employer approach disciplinary issues if discipline isn’t adequately addressed in the collective agreement?

Answer: Generally speaking, an employee who is covered by a collective agreement can only be disciplined or discharged for just and reasonable cause. Most collective agreements expressly contain this requirement, and where the agreement is silent, the labour relations statutes in most Canadian jurisdictions make it a term of the agreement that just and reasonable cause is required for the discipline or discharge of a bargaining unit employee.

Some collective agreements prescribe the disciplinary penalties an employer is entitled to impose on employees, or require the employer to follow a particular progression of corrective discipline. Where such provisions exist, they should be followed. In most cases, however, the collective agreement is silent on the issue of disciplinary penalties.