Ontario Superior Court rejects Canadian Pacific Railway’s bid to overturn arbitration decision

The case involved a dispute between the railway company and its employee union

Ontario Superior Court rejects Canadian Pacific Railway’s bid to overturn arbitration decision

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has dismissed an application for judicial review brought by Canadian Pacific Railway against an arbitrator’s decision.

The railway company sought to overturn Arbitrator William Kaplan's ruling, which affirmed his jurisdiction to adjudicate disputes between the company and Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, the union representing a bargaining unit of the company’s employees, including locomotive engineers, conductors, and yardmasters.

The dispute in Canadian Pacific Railway v. Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, 2024 ONSC 278, stemmed from a series of grievances filed by the union since 2012 concerning the company's use and payment of "conductor only" crews, as outlined in the collective agreement effective January 1, 2022, to December 31, 2023.

Despite a failed ratification of a memorandum of settlement aimed at grievance reduction, both parties had previously agreed to ad hoc arbitration under the Canadian Railway Office of Arbitration and Dispute Resolution (CROA) rules.

Arbitrator Kaplan's decision concluded he retained jurisdiction over the dispute, having been engaged by both parties' actions even after the non-ratification of the grievance settlement memorandum. His ruling focused on the jurisdiction over "lead grievances" that mirrored the operational facts of cases decided in 2020, dismissing Canadian Pacific’s claims of procedural unfairness and unreasonable decision-making.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice examined whether Canadian Pacific’s application for judicial review was premature or untimely, alongside the arbitrator's adherence to principles of natural justice and procedural fairness.

The court concluded the application was premature, as the arbitrator had only confirmed his ongoing jurisdiction to determine the arbitrability of the supplemental disputes, not the final scope of his authority over the 17 lead grievances submitted by the union.

The judgment highlighted that the arbitration process, as agreed upon by the company and the union, was still unfolding, with the arbitrator yet to determine the arbitrability of the grievances in question. Furthermore, the court found it unnecessary to address the procedural fairness and reasonableness grounds that Canadian Pacific raised since its application for judicial review was premature.

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