NB Power's promotion process flawed, arbitrator says

Employer must re-do hiring rounds
|Canadian Labour Reporter|Last Updated: 11/10/2015

Stephen Gould and Aaron Grant, employees at the New Brunswick Power company, said they were denied promotions wrongfully and despite the fact that junior, less-qualified employees were moving into the coveted power plant operator position.

Gould and Grant, represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 37, said they were senior employees with "ability and qualifications" that were equal or more when compared to the junior employees being promoted. Six junior employees were promoted to the position before Grant and Gould.

According to the IBEW, this was a violation of the collective agreement. The evaluation process was flawed and invalid, based on structural flaws in the process including behaviour assessments and various assessors, the union said.

As such, both employees sought an order that the competition and appointment of the six junior employees to the desired classification be struck, and a new competition be run. No personal claim for the job posting would be intentionally made at the hearing, the union added.

In response, New Brunswick Power denied any wrongdoing and claimed instead that its Employment Opportunity Posting was properly listed under the "qualifications" assessment for the posting. The process undertaken was fair and utilized qualified persons for all assessments made.

The assessment was intended to assess the job applied for, not the job the incumbents held — as a result, the employer contended past performance appraisals were not relevant and all persons were assessed under a similar matrix by persons fairly positioned to address the relevant criteria selected.

In making his decision, Robert Breen found the employer’s assessors were in no position to weigh the grievor’s lengthy and apparently satisfactory work performances, and not enabled to reconcile their assessment of any of the candidates with expected personnel records, much less weigh the candidates' relative technical competencies.

An appraisal of objective information was deliberately excluded from the process, nor was there any feedback over so-called deficiencies, Breen said. He concluded the employer not only violated the collective agreement, but ran an inherently unfair and unreasonable assessment process.

"The process was plainly unfair and unreasonable in circumstances which show a failure of NB Power to properly train or instruct the assessors on the assessment to be made, and a failure to confirm to them what the scoring criteria meant to a candidate’s recommendation," he said.

He directed the competition for the power plant operator position be rerun, and the process should align with the direction of the collective agreement and this award, Breen said.

"This tool should, minimally, include a reliance on such performance appraisals as exist and the relative technical competencies of candidates and separately weighted in a consistent process for assessment designed to bring an overall ‘balanced perspective’ on all candidates.

Reference: New Brunswick Power Nuclear and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 37. David Mombourquette for the union, Melissa Everett-Withers for the employer. Robert Breen — adjudicator. Sept. 3, 2015.