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Overtime, Unsafe Work & Breaks: refusal rights and “emergencies”


Your Component Executive is deeply concerned that the employer is now using overtime to make up for a lack of Sheriffs, and at an even greater cost to the government.

Your Component Executive has been made aware that some members have chosen to refuse overtime at their court house. Last week the Sheriff Services reduced the hours of 28 auxiliary Deputy Sheriffs (who have been all working almost full time) down to as low as 10%, and reduced 24 Part Time Regular Deputy Sheriffs from 100% down to 75%. The net result of this is a loss of 34 Full Time Deputy Sheriff positions. The employer should be offering the work to our members who have had their hours reduced, before calling a regular full time employee in to work overtime at an increased cost to the government.

I want to remind our members that the Master Agreement is clear; you have the right to refuse overtime:

Article 16.9 – Right to Refuse Overtime

a) All employees shall have the right to refuse to work overtime, except when required to do so in emergency situations, without being subject to disciplinary action for so refusing.

The Component 1 agreement is also clear on the definition of emergencies:

Article 11 – Emergencies Defined

A sudden unexpected or unforeseen situation or occurrence or set of circumstances demanding an immediate action.

Operational requirements or short-staffing alone do not constitute an emergency.

We are also interested to learn of situations in the past 30 days where members have refused overtime and an emergency has been declared or members have faced disciplinary action.

Unsafe Work

We are also concerned given the recently reduced hours of many of our Deputy Sheriff members that they may now be put in a situation at work where they are unsafe, primarily due to a shortage of staff. This also applies to Correctional Officers. Members are reminded of Section 3.12 ("How to Refuse Unsafe Work") of the Occupation Health and Safety Regulation.

If you have reason to believe that the work is unsafe this is the procedure to follow:

  • Talk to your supervisor or employer;
  • Supervisor must investigate and fix the hazard or let you know that s/he doesn't agree that there is a hazard;
  • If you still believe that the work is dangerous then you can continue to refuse and the supervisor must continue the investigation in the presence of the worker and a worker rep from the OH&S committee, a union designate or a co-worker selected by you;
  • If the hazard is still not fixed and you consider the work unsafe, you can continue to refuse and both you and the employer must contact the WCB. A WCB officer must investigate the matter without delay and issue whatever orders s/he considers necessary;
  • You may be reassigned to alternate work, at no loss in pay, while you wait for the WCB officer's decision;
  • Always let your shop steward know that you are refusing unsafe work.

Section 3.13 says that you cannot be fired or disciplined by your employer for refusing unsafe work. Any indication of retribution by the employer should be reported to your steward immediately.

Lunch and Coffee Breaks

All employees shall have two, 15-minute rest periods in each work period in excess of six hours, one rest period to be granted before and one after the meal period. Employees working a shift of three and one half hours, but not more than six hours, shall receive one rest period during such a shift. Rest periods shall not begin until one hour after the commencement of work or not later than one hour before either the meal period or the end of the shift. Rest periods shall be taken without loss of pay to the employees.

It’s unacceptable for our members to be working through their coffee and lunch breaks. These are your rights under the collective agreement and they will not be stripped away by the employer.

The component plans on tracking this information to see how widespread the problem is and begin to look for solutions. Please contact your Local Chair.

In Solidarity,
Component 1 Chair

Dean Purdy

Download the Monteith Rest Periods Settlement Agreement here.