IATSE Local 56 v L’Aréna des Canadiens – Brault Grievance – May 14, 2024

On March 22, 2022, the Bell Centre (the “Centre”), owned by L’Aréna des Canadiens (the “Employer”), suspended its policy requiring employees to be fully vaccinated or take a rapid test confirming they were negative for COVID-19 in order to access the Centre and engage in any work call. However, on March 24, 2022, the Employer informed employees that the Justin Bieber concert team that was scheduled to load into the Centre prior to the Bieber concert on March 28, 2022 had requested all backstage Centre employees take a rapid COVID-19 test to confirm they were negative for COVID-19 as a condition of employment on the work call. The Grievor, Local 56 member Bruce Brault, who was the Chief Rigger at the Centre, went to work on March 28 along with 14 other riggers. The Grievor and the 14-person crew refused to participate in any COVID-19 testing. In response, the Employer imposed a 10-event (between 10-20 workdays) unpaid suspension on the Grievor, alleging he had incited an illegal strike.

The Arbitrator, Nancy Ménard-Cheng, issued a decision in Local 56’s grievance taking issue with the discipline issued to the Grievor on May 14, 2024.

The evidence of the Grievor’s actions to incite an illegal strike was almost entirely circumstantial, with no direct evidence on what the Grievor said and did. However, the Arbitrator found, on a balance of probabilities, that the Grievor had, in fact, encouraged the other 14 riggers on the work call to refuse testing on March 28. The Arbitrator came to this conclusion after considering, among other things, that the other 14 riggers returned to work the following day and agreed to undergo testing when the Grievor was not there. The Arbitrator also found that the Grievor used his influence as the Chief Rigger to encourage his co-workers to refuse to test and his conduct in this regard was worthy of discipline.

In reviewing the discipline issued by the Employer, the Arbitrator found that the 10-event suspension the Employer issued to the Grievor was appropriate in the circumstances (and even lenient). IN reaching this decision, the Arbitrator did not view the Grievor’s 40 years of seniority with the Employer and otherwise clean disciplinary record to be sufficient mitigating factors to justify substituting the discipline issued with a lesser form of discipline. The Arbitrator viewed the Grievor’s conduct seriously endangered the concert and that the role he played in the illegal strike was an extremely serious breach of trust. The Arbitrator also found that the Grievor’s denial of any wrongdoing and lack of remorse both before the hearing and during the hearing provided  to be aggravating factors that provided “no reason to believe a less severe measure would have resulted in” any behaviour modification by the Grievor.

This decision underscores the fact that inciting an illegal strike can and will lead to significant discipline dismissal, even for an employee with significant seniority and an otherwise clean disciplinary record.

To read the full decision, click here.

English (Canada)