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OPSEU/SEFPO wins big on pregnancy/parental leave

CAAT-A notebook

OPSEU/SEFPO has won an important battle around vacation and pregnancy/parental leave. An arbitrator has ruled that colleges cannot force faculty employees to take vacation during leaves.

The grievance arose when a college professor wanted to take pregnancy leave. During her leave, she would be paid by Employment Insurance, which was topped up by the college’s Supplementary Unemployment Benefit (SUB) plan. This meant that she would not need to take her summer vacation or the deferred salary that went with it.

The professor requested that her deferred vacation salary be paid in a one-time lump sum, or that she be given two months’ paid vacation upon her return from her leave.

The employer insisted the professor take her vacation during her pregnancy leave, depriving her of her two months’ paid vacation.

Arbitrator Kathleen G. O’Neil ruled that the employer could not get out of its obligation to top up the professor’s Employment Insurance benefits through the SUB plan. She stated that deferred summer earnings and the SUB plan were two completely different entitlements. When the college tried to avoid making SUB plan payments, it had violated the collective agreement.

“What we have here is a heartless employer trying to pull a fast one on a soon-to-be mother,” said Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer. “They blatantly broke the collective agreement and tried to stiff her of her duly earned paid vacation time.

“I just have to shake my head when I see this kind of disgraceful behaviour. And I think this employer should hang their head in shame.”

For OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas, this is just further evidence that unions are as necessary now as ever.

“The collective agreement clearly stated members didn’t have to take vacation while on leave – and the employer still tried to make a faculty member give up her vacation pay. Can you imagine how much more vulnerable non-unionized workers are to employer wrongdoing?

“It just goes to show that every worker needs and deserves to be protected by a union – one that has the resources to right wrongs within our complex and costly judicial system,” said Thomas. “OPSEU/SEFPO keeps getting good rulings for our members – and we’re going to keep being a force for good in this province.”