Toronto, ON – A federal arbitrator’s decision today reaffirms the right of IAM members to show their pride in membership of their Union while at work for Air Canada.
At issue is Air Canada’s Workwear Standards Book – the grooming standard that is part of a larger Company-wide uniform program. While wearing a company cap is not a mandatory component of the Standard, if an employee chooses to wear a cap, it must be a company cap. The IAM disagrees.
“Air Canada began forbidding and threatening our members from wearing any apparel with a union logo on it,” explained IAM Transportation District 140 General Chairperson Paul Lefebvre. “Of course, more members began to wear union hats in reaction. This is not a new issue, I was disciplined for wearing union apparel in 1987. Then president of IAM Local Lodge 2323, Bill Shipman arranged counsel on the issue and the IAM won the arbitration award which allows members to wear union apparel while on the job at Air Canada. However, Air Canada thought that decision was now out of date and put out an official uniform policy forbidding the wearing of Union apparel. That policy violates the original award and our collective agreement.”
Current IAM Local Lodge 2323 President Dave Flowers had his Shop Committee file a grievance over this violation and obtained agreement from IAM Transportation District 140 President and Directing General Chairperson Fred Hospes, to challenge the company. Air Canada informed the union it was hiring counsel and, rather than utilize our expedited process, wanted a full evidentiary hearing. Local Lodge 2323 responded by obtaining Ian Roland as counsel, who has over forty years of challenging this employer on behalf of Local Lodge 2323 members.
In its submission to federal arbitrator Christine Schmidt, Air Canada said it considers it important from a visible branding perspective that all employees, including those employees who do not interact with customers, present a consistent and uniform appearance to the public. The company seeks to eliminate all brands other than Air Canada, including the IAM logo, as they could interfere with a singular focus on the Air Canada brand.
The IAM stated the effect of the new cap requirement is the same as it was when the 1987 arbitration award was decided: it prevents employees in this bargaining unit from expressing support for their union. Arbitrator Schmidt stated the impact of that otherwise rational objective on these ‘below the wing’ employees is the suppression of their desire to continue a decades old habit of expressing support for their trade union. “The company has failed to draw a clear and objective link between the new cap requirement for these ‘below the wing employees’ and the Company’s business interests, said Schmidt. “I find that the new cap requirement is not reasonable and as such, the Company is in violation of article 1.02 of the collective agreement. The grievance is upheld. The Company is directed to remove the requirement in the Workwear Standard that IAM members must wear Air Canada issued caps.”