Over the years numerous GSU members planning to retire have taken unused vacation between their last day at work and their retirement date. This is precisely the course a union member working for Viterra followed recently only to discover that as a result of a change in company policy the employee's last day at work was determined to be his last day of employment instead of his retirement date of December 31, 2016.
The practical effect for the union member was the termination of his insurance and benefits coverage as of his last day at work and the denial of holiday pay for December 25 and 26. The member only became aware that his employment had been terminated by Viterra when he received his pay stub.
GSU was also unaware of Viterra's change in policy and took up the matter with company management. In a meeting on December 21, 2016 management advised that the company's policy regarding using vacation as a bridge to retirement had changed three or four years ago. A subsequent check by GSU failed to yield any evidence that Viterra had notified the union or employees of the change in policy.
Following a review of union records, on December 23 GSU general secretary Hugh Wagner wrote Viterra management requesting that the employee be paid for December 25 and 26 and that a second meeting be convened to discuss the matter. Despite Wagner's offer to meet on December 28, 29 or 30, a response wasn't received until January 9, 2017 when management declined to pay the employee for the stat holidays and dismissed the proposal to meet.
In response to Viterra's unilateral policy change and defensive reaction, GSU commenced an executive grievance on January 11.
"GSU is seeking to restore the ability of employees to access paid vacation immediately prior to retirement without triggering the termination of their employment," Wagner said. "In addition, we are seeking to defend employees' terms and conditions of employment from unilateral change by stealthy management actions."
"Viterra's response to this situation is disappointing especially since we've been through this kind of movie before on the subject of vacation pay on overtime pay when a unilaterally action by the company was overturned and hundreds of thousands of dollars were recovered for union members by GSU," said Wagner.
Until the outcome of GSU's grievance is determined, union members who have unused vacation and are planning retirement are encouraged to contact a union rep before finalizing their plans.
Updates will be provided as developments occur.