Retirees could unilaterally invoke dispute resolution process in memorandum of understanding

Contracts - Formation of Contract - Duress

Public Service Health Care Plan (“PSHCP”) was health care plan that provided coverage for active federal employees and retirees from federal public service. Collaborative committee (“partners committee”) was made up of employer representatives from Treasury Board (“TB”), employee representatives and one representative for retirees to allow for joint problem-solving process to reach consensus on plan development and cost-management issues. In letter dated March 26, 2014, TB president wrote to partners committee formally announcing approval of joint recommendation. Cost sharing ratio would be moved to 50-50 per cent split, meaning that retirees paid 50 per cent of premiums for coverage under PSHCP and federal government paid other 50 per cent. Prior to this, retirees had paid 25 per cent of premiums. Active federal employees did not pay premiums for PSHCP coverage. Retirees from various facets of federal public service and retiree advocacy group brought application for judicial review. Applicants sought relief, including declaration that their contractual rights had been breached and that TB letter of March 26, 2014 not be recognized as agreement, application was dismissed. Applicants appealed. Appeal dismissed. Applicants failed to demonstrate that composition of Partners Committee unreasonably limited the retirees’ ability to make representations and have those representations considered in good faith. Association’s representative, as a member of the Partners Committee, was able to make representations to the Partners Committee, with the goal of achieving a joint recommendation for Treasury Board approval. They also had ability to unilaterally invoke dispute resolution process contemplated in Renewal MOU. Retirees, through their designated representative, had the ability to have their voices heard and there was remedy available that could have been used if they felt as though their voices were being drowned out.

Bemister v. Canada (Attorney General) (2019), 2019 CarswellNat 2951, 2019 FCA 190, M. Nadon J.A., Yves de Montigny J.A., and Judith M. Woods J.A. (F.C.A.); affirmed (2017), 2017 CarswellNat 3961, 2017 CarswellNat 7661, 2017 FC 749, 2017 CF 749, Ann Marie McDonald J. (F.C.).

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