British Columbia's cargo and passenger shipping company BC Ferries had no right to lay off hundreds of employees during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, an independent labour arbitrator ruled on Friday, October 2.
The temporary layoffs were announced on April 4, 2020, when the first of 690 casual and 425 regular employees were dismissed. The layoffs broke the contract with BC Ferry and Marine Workers Union, the ruling said. According to the collective agreement, BC Ferries was required to pay employees a specific monthly amount in accordance with the negotiated wage schedule. The agreement stipulates the company didn't have the right to unilaterally place regular employees on "off-duty status" as it did during the COVID pandemic.
According to the ruling, the company first provided the union with details of service cuts as a result of the Coronavirus crisis and travel restrictions on April 1. On April 3, BC Ferries alerted all employees it intended to lay off "hundreds" of union members. The following day, the layoffs started and included the dismissal of some senior-level regular and casual workers. More junior employees continued working, in contravention of the agreement.
The union grieved the dismissals on April 5. On April 9 filed an application for arbitration with BC Labour Relations Board. On April 11, the company rescinded the temporary layoffs for regular employees and announced that it would pay them 75% of their base salaries for days without work and regular pay for days worked. The casual employees' layoffs remained in place.
By July 2, all casual and regular employees returned to their jobs with full pay.