|Mediation fails; arbitration begins on the CN Pension dispute
|What promises to be a lengthy process began on Wednesday, May 28, 2008 in Montreal, as Arbitrator Michel Picher presided over the first day of hearing into
the issue of CN’s right to deny consent for unreduced early retirement.
The hearing comes after five days of mediation (April 7, 24, 25, 28, and May 8), which involved Mr. Picher’s assistance as well as actuaries, lawyers, legal
opinions, but in the end no agreement.
Present at Wednesday’s hearing were Lewis Gottheil, National Director of Legal Services for the CAW (whose grievance is being heard); Harold Caley, senior
partner in Caley Wray, representing the TCRC, UTU and IBEW as intervenors; and Abe Rosner and Bryon DeBaets of the CAW. CN was represented by Ogilvy
Renault lawyers John Coleman and Mary Gleason, as well as Director of Labour Relations Doug Fisher.
The four unions had agreed last November to progress the CAW grievance first and to continue to work together on all aspects of mediation and strategy.
CN is taking the position that Mr. Picher has no right to hear the grievance because it relates to pensions. Furthermore, CN wants him to rule on that issue
before hearing the rest of the case on its merits. The Unions, of course, believe that Mr. Picher has every right and power to rule on the issue, and furthermore
the Unions have asked that the full evidence be heard before he decides whether he has jurisdiction or not.
Mr. Picher will first rule on whether to “split” the hearing as CN wishes, or whether to do everything at once, as the CAW proposes. After that will come the far
more complex issue of whether the grievance is “arbitrable”. The parties will exchange written briefs and replies on this matter, with a deadline of September
9, 2008. Depending on his previous “splitting” decision, these briefs will either complete the written evidence (if the Union wins on the “splitting” question) or
else will be limited to whether Mr. Picher will hear the rest of the case at all. Either way, the CAW is aiming for the key issues to be debated this fall.
The CAW's first desire was a fair negotiated settlement. Second was that CN would simply allow Mr. Picher to decide the issue on its merits. Unfortunately,
neither has come to pass. Updates on all developments will be posted on cawcouncil4000.com as it is made available.
Source: CAW Railfax