Adjusting Unionized Employees’ Work Duties
When an employee commences employment with an employer whose workforce is unionized, the employee’s rights are subject to the collective agreement. Essentially, the collective agreement is a contract of employment between the union and the employer. The union negotiates the collective agreement on behalf of its whole employee unit. It covers all of the fundamental terms of employment, including pay, hours, roles, and other issues. Sometimes, whether because of business needs or other reasons, the employer may change the employee’s duties. Can an employer legally adjust unionized employees’ work duties?
Can Employers Adjust Unionized Employees’ Work Duties?
The standard legal answer is “it depends”. But the long answer is that an employer’s ability to change an employee’s duties will be subject to the collective agreement. The collective agreement may allow the employer to temporarily or permanently modify an employee’s duties, but it also may stipulate that the employee must consent. Or, the employer may simply have to negotiate with the employee’s union, whether through collective bargaining or otherwise. An employee’s duties are often tied to seniority, and other important aspects of a unionized workforce, so a change in duties is often a very delicate subject.
What If An Employer Unilaterally Adjusts Unionized Employees’ Work Duties?
Employers who do unilaterally change an employee’s duties can be faced with a grievance from the union, which can lead to damages for violation of the collective agreement. The wisest course of action for an employee faced with this issue is to consult his or her union, who can then file a grievance on behalf of the employee or seek other remedies available, including but not limited to negotiation.
Unionized employees faced with this issue will not be able to file a claim or sue their employer in civil court, and will have to rely on their union. However, it is always a good idea to seek independent legal counsel if you require a second opinion about your case.
If you are an employer who needs assistance with a labour law matter, or an employee who is seeking a second opinion on a labour law issue, our team of experienced labour lawyers at Achkar Law can help.