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Labour relations board ruling forces city to reinstate worker

A terminated unionized city employee will be returning to work in Williams Lake after the Labour Relations Board ruled in her favour.

According to an LRB arbitration ruling handed down Nov. 27, Susan Ronalds, 59, was terminated from her position as senior payroll clerk at city hall on April 5, 2013 following an incident which coincided with mounting tensions leading to the labour strike last February.

Ronalds took her case to the LRB, who conducted a three-day hearing in Williams Lake Nov. 6, 7, and 8.

According to the ruling, on Feb. 13, 2013, the city put out a press release stating it had been served 72-hour-strike notice by the union and that it had paid out over $250,000 in overtime costs annually.

Ronalds thought the number was high and prepared a report of overtime hours during her lunch hour, which she later shredded.

Her report totalled $201,000 in overtime.

When management discovered the unauthorized report Ronalds was suspended for a day and two hours without pay.

She subsequently went on medical leave, and while she was on leave, staff searched her computer and found an e-mail sent to her home on April 28, 2011 with an attached report.

The report outlined the salaries and historical raises of the chief administrative officer and director of finance from 2003 to 2010.

City management testified it had lost its trust in Ronalds because of those two incidents and she was terminated.

However, arbitrator Emily M. Burke ruled the city had not established the essential elements of the incident for which it wanted to terminate Ronalds.

“The city reached certain conclusions adverse to the grievor without the proper foundation, in my view being unduly influenced by the February incident.”

Burke concluded Ronalds gave no explanation for the report created two years previously as she did not recall it.

“She understood the seriousness of a breach of confidentiality and expressed remorse for her conduct of Feb. 14, 2013,” Burke said.

Ronalds said this week the ruling came as an early Christmas present. “I am pleased about the ruling of course,” she said. “Right now I am in negotiations with the city with regards to what the process is going to be. We’ll see where it goes from here.”

The city’s CAO Darrell Garceau confirmed the city is negotiating with Ronalds.

“Until it’s been resolved I am not at liberty to say anything,” Garceau said. “I have a meeting with council and a subsequent meeting with Mrs. Ronalds this week. We’re going through the process of acknowledging the awards and going through that now,” he said.

Ronalds was able to find other employment soon after she was terminated, but wanted to return to the city, she said.

“I feel this is a good thing for everyone that works for the city, all unionized employees,” Ronalds said.

 

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