Unions Win Challenge of Health Authority's Punitive Attendance Management Program

January 21, 2013

Health care unions have won a significant victory protecting the rights of sick and injured workers who were being punished by Vancouver Coastal Health.

In 2008 the health authority introduced an offensive and punitive attendance management program that the unions said unfairly punished employees who use sick leave. The unions, including CUPE, HSA, BCGEU, HEU and UFCW filed a multi-union grievance against the program.

The unions challenged the employer’s assertion that it could unilaterally impose overtime bans, reduce FTE status, and even terminate employees they deemed to have taken too much paid sick time.

The unions argued that these penalties rendered the Attendance and Wellness Promotion Program (AWP) invalid, as they breached the BC Labour Relations Code, as well as longstanding principles of labour law.

Friday, Arbitrator Vince Ready agreed with the unions’ position and ordered that:

• the automatic overtime ban, FTE reduction, and non-culpable termination of employment be  

  eliminated from the AWP;
• employees who had been subjected to overtime bans or FTE reductions have those  

  punishments removed immediately

Ready noted several times throughout his written decision that it is both ineffective and inappropriate for employers to punish employees whose absence is due to circumstances beyond their control.

CUPE couldn’t agree more, and believes a far more effective way to reduce employee absenteeism is through a jointly implemented and managed health and wellness program.

“This is an important decision for CUPE members who have been suffering under the punitive practices of Vancouver Coastal Health Authority,” CUPE Local 15 President Paul Faoro said.

“CUPE vigorously fought this program and we are extremely pleased with the lifting of penalties,” he said.

“We will continue to advocate for a province-wide reallocation of funding to shift from a punitive focus on attendance management to a program that focuses on the long term health and wellness of the health workers who are so integral to the health care system,” he said.

The Community Health collective agreement reached a tentative agreement recently and the Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association resumed bargaining this week.