National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a Paid Holiday: It Depends on Collective Agreement Language

The much-anticipated decision, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) v Alberta Health Services (AHS) (Policy grievances #848846 and 848870, Named Holidays, National Day for Truth & Reconciliation), addresses a dispute concerning whether existing collective agreement language regarding the recognition of holidays would capture the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation recently created by the Government of Canada (NDTR).

This case concerns language in collective agreements between Alberta Health Services and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees. The agreements, like many in the Province, included a list of holidays. These lists did not include the NDTR, as the language predated the holiday’s proclamation. The agreements did however refer to the incorporation of any holidays that may be “proclaimed by the municipality or the government of Alberta or Canada”. Much of the case turned on the effect of this language.

Arbitrator Yingst Bartel, applying the well-recognized “modern principle” of collective agreement interpretation, held that the language demonstrated an intention to recognize the NDTR. She found, among other matters, that by referring to federal events (i.e., proclamation by the Government of Canada), the parties had thereby agreed to obligations arising from a federal event. In so finding, the agreements were held to support the inclusion of the NDTR as a new holiday on the basis of their specific language.

The decision here ultimately turned on the particular language of the collective agreements, and the applicable surrounding circumstances. It will however be relevant to several employers who have similar language in their collective agreements. Employers should review their collective agreements to put their minds to which holidays may be covered under their agreements. To the extent they are concerned about the interpretation of that language, they should also seek legal advice.

Disclaimer: This information is not provided as legal opinion or advice. For further information or assistance with applying collective agreement language, please contact any of the lawyers at Neuman Thompson.