Lévesque and Treasury Board (Fisheries and Oceans – Canadian Coast Guard)

166-2-27426

  • Before: M-M. Galipeau
  • Appearances: D. Jewitt, for the Grievor; A. Lévesque, for the Employer
  • Decision Rendered: 1997-07-18

Subject terms:

Housekeeping services – Ships' officer – Latent ambiguity – Estoppel – Past practice – since the Canadian Government has been operating vessels, officers have had their quarters maintained, when feasible, and this practice was considered as an historical right – this practice had been recognized in the first collective agreement and the language regarding maintenance of quarters had not been altered since – during the last round of bargaining, in order to prevent any ambiguity arising out of the collective agreement, and with a view to maintaining the status quo (76% of ships' officers being provided with maintained quarters), the bargaining agent attempted to have the language of the collective agreement clarified – the employer responded that it would not reduce any of the services during the life of the collective agreement – accordingly, the bargaining agent did not pursue its attempts to amend the collective agreement in this regard – five years later, the employer decided to stop maintaining fully and daily the grievor's quarters – the grievor alleged that the employer had breached the collective agreement – furthermore, the grievor argued that the employer was estopped from altering unilaterally its practice – the grievor submitted that the practice should be continued until the end of the next collective agreement – the employer argued that the language of the collective agreement allowed it to discontinue the maintenance of quarters – the employer added that, in the last round of negotiations, no assurance was given to the bargaining agent that the practice would not be amended – the employer alleged that estoppel could not be invoked as there had been no detrimental reliance – the adjudicator found that the language of the collective agreement was latently ambiguous and she was therefore entitled to consider extrinsic evidence as an aid to interpretation – the adjudicator noted that the employer's practice had been to provide 76% of ships' officers with maintained quarters – the adjudicator decided that, under the collective agreement, the grievor was entitled to have his quarters maintained daily, which was the practice – in the alternative, the adjudicator ruled that, in light of the representations made by the employer to the bargaining agent during the last round of bargaining, which the bargaining agent relied upon, the employer was estopped from unilaterally changing the practice.

Grievance allowed.