Historic victory for PIPSC Veterinarians in Quebec
Classification Services of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) is proud to announce an important victory for our members. On November 4, 2016, the Federal Court made a landmark decision ordering the reclassification of the positions of twelve (12) Veterinarians at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), retroactive to June 2001. This was a long fight between twelve (12) Veterinarians in the CFIA as a result of a job content and classification grievance.
After the job content was settled, a classification grievance committee issued a decision in 2011 that maintained the level of the VM-03 position. The matter was referred to Federal Court and in 2012, Justice de Montigny ordered that the decision be rescinded and a new classification grievance committee be convened. In the decision, it was determined that the Agency had exceeded its jurisdiction and failed to respect the classification grievance process by modifying the work description covered by the classification grievance. The judge concluded that the Committee had usurped the role of a grievance arbitrator and thus breached the principles of natural justice by not respecting the process provided by the collective agreement and the Agency’s own policies. In doing so, the Committee breached the applicants’ rights and rendered an unreasonable decision. Following this judgment, a notice of referral to adjudication was submitted to the Public Service Labour Relations Board in order to have the question of the content of the work description adjudicated. In 2014, the parties agreed that the same work description would be submitted to a new classification grievance committee.
In July 2015, the CFIA issued a new classification decision and committed the exact same error as the original decision in 2011. An application was made for a second time to the Federal Court of Canada.
On November 4, 2016, in a rare and exceptional exercise of judicial discretion at the federal court level, Justice Leblanc ordered the reclassification of the position to the VM-04 group and level. The judge determined that the CFIA had failed in its duty to act fairly by changing the description of work of the position and that the Committee had made the same mistakes the first time by ignoring the wording of the description of work. In his judgment, the judge found that the additional delays by the CFIA unreasonably interfered in the administration of justice and could not be trusted to make the correct decision by being given a third opportunity to evaluate the grievance. The dispute has gone on since 2007 and had a significant impact on the remuneration and benefits of these veterinarians retroactive to June 26, 2001.
This decision is exceptional and historic since it is the first time that the Federal Court has exercised its discretionary power and ordered the reclassification of a position. The CFIA has thirty (30) days to make application to refer the matter to the Federal Court of Appeal and we will continue to monitor this and the implementation of this decision.
This decision represents more than $ 1 million combined salary and benefits adjustments for these twelve (12) veterinarians. While this decision is specific to the facts of this case and the remedy applies to the twelve (12) veterinarians exclusively, it represents a significant win for the Institute as it sets a new precedent on the classification grievance process and the fundamental rights of our members to a fair and transparent classification grievance hearing. We extend special mention and thanks to the many staff members who have advocated and advanced this file over the past fifteen (15) years including Allison Tomka, Patrizia Campanella, Sandra Guéric and Emilie Gagné.
Once available, the decision will be posted on the Federal Court of Canada website.