In our continuing series of informative articles on collective agreement language, we wanted to highlight Letter of Understanding 45 that has relevance and importance as Turnaround winds down.
LOU 45 is titled, “APPLICATION OF OVERTIME ASSIGNMENTS, SHORT TIME OFF, AND CHANGE OF SCHEDULE” and its intent is to outline pay for short notice, extended or overtime assignments and fatigue management protocols to protect the interests of both the employee and employer. This letter was originally bargained in 1974 and has undergone revisions in subsequent negotiations.
This is highlighted in the first paragraph of the LOU, which states:
“The purpose of this letter is to provide adequate periods of rest between work assignments that arise out of overtime which extends the regular working day and call-outs outside of normal working hours. The safety of employees is always of the highest priority. It is applicable to those working regular days and not those working regular shift work unless the short time off is due to an emergency response team call out”
You can see that both the Co-op and Union agreed that employee safety is the highest priority (aka fatigue management) and takes priority over compensation.
While we won’t copy & paste the entire LOU, we want to bring attention to point 8 on page two of the LOU. It reads:
“If a worker is scheduled for a special night assignment, they shall get one paid day off for every ten nights they work to a maximum of 2 days. These days off are to be taken consecutively at the end of the night shift assignment for the purpose of returning to a normal day schedule. This includes shift workers that are scheduled for special night assignments”
Every Turnaround, either through volunteerism or forced shift change, there is a number of in-scope staff that work extended night assignments as described above. Historically, employees were rewarded for their service with a shift off with pay according to the LOU language. This was the clear intent of the parties.
Unfortunately, during 2016 bargaining the Co-op issued ‘estoppel notice’ on this point meaning that practice would end upon ratification and we would follow the ‘plain language of the agreement’. In layman’s terms that means because the LOU doesn’t specify a shift off with pay the Co-op can choose to pay employees for a day off they already were scheduled for.
This obviously does not fit the intent of the language, but it is how it was written. Everyone knows that working nights during Turnaround for an extended period, in some cases three or four cycles of 13/1s, that its time off to readjust to a normal sleep schedule that people need not compensation.
During 2019 Bargaining, the Union had put forward a proposal to clarify and correct this point, but the Co-op chose not to align the language with the intent of the letter.
The very last paragraph of LOU 45 states:
“If a situation arises that these rules do not address, the Company and the Union shall meet and come to an agreement in a fair and timely manner, keeping in mind that the purpose of this letter is to ensure adequate rest for the safety of the worker. It is recognized that a worker may have an unusual rest requirement, and this will be taken into consideration in applying these rules.”
While we couldn’t agree at the last bargaining table, it is our hope that the Co-op has a change of heart and returns to previous practice of “ensuring adequate rest for the safety of the worker” despite poorly written language from the 70s. In the meantime, the Union will continue to champion for the safety of workers until we can readdress this issue in 2026.