Workers on leave should be considered for job postings, says troubleshooter

A qualified worker who is on leave cannot be denied a posting, even if unavailable at the time the job commences, says investigator Judy Korbin in a Dec. 30 recommendation. Korbin investigated a grievance filed by an HEU member who, while absent from work for health reasons had responded to a job posting and was denied the job on the grounds that he would be unavailable at the time the job started. The employer argued that part of the qualifications for the job included availability, and they therefore claimed the right to deny the posting on the grounds that this worker was not available to begin the job. The union's written submission to the investigator stated that the facility master agreement provides that an employer must consider applications from absent employees. This applies to anyone who is on leave be it vacation, unpaid, union, compassionate, special or disability leave. However, this provision had never before been tested. While Korbin's recommendation lacks the force of a formal arbitration, it's important because it takes into consideration the collective agreement, but also past practice of this particular employer. During the same leave the grievor had applied for another posting and been assigned to the new job, even though he would not be there at its commencement. The employer simply posted a temporary job and hired someone to fill in until the worker was available. When the grievor - still absent from work - applied for the second job, he was denied the posting based on his unavailability. Korbin stated that since the employer had followed this practice in the first instance, it was difficult to reconcile the rejection of the grievor's application regarding the position, on the grounds of unavailability alone, although he indicated he would be absent for the first three months of the posting. "It's important to know that this recommendation verifies that a member who is absent from work due to illness or an accident can apply for a posting and be as eligible for that job as if she or he were presently at work, even if they will be unavailable when the job starts," says Chris Allnutt, HEU's secretary-business manager. "Although this is the recommendations of a troubleshooter and applies only to this workplace, it represents an important interpretation of the rights of workers who are absent from work for health reasons."