The Court dismissed an application for judicial review of the decision of an arbitration panel under the Labour Relations Code, R.S.A. 2000, c. L-1. The Court found that the panel’s decision in respect of a teacher’s final salary payout was reasonable.

Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Arbitration Board – Labour law – Collective agreements – Pensions – Judicial review – Compliance with legislation – Standard of review – Reasonableness simpliciter

Wild Rose School Division No. 66 v. Alberta Teachers’ Assn, [2007] A.J. No. 480, Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, April 30, 2007, W.E. Wilson J.

The Respondent Teachers’ Association had claimed that the employer (the Petitioner School Division) had miscalculated a retiring teacher’s final salary payout by $2,272.20, which, in turn, would have affected the teacher’s pension entitlements. The School Division took the position that the payout was proper and in accordance with the provisions of the School Act and the Collective Agreement. At issue was the application of section 111 of the School Act, regarding payment of salary where a teacher terminates his or her contract partway through a school year.

An arbitration panel convened under the Alberta Labour Relations Code had found in favour of the teacher. The School Division applied for a judicial review of that decision.

The Court applied the pragmatic and functional analysis to determine the appropriate standard of review. First, there was a privative clause contained in section 145(2) and (3) of the Labour Relations Code, suggesting some deference to be paid to the board’s decision.

Second, considering the relative expertise, the panel was made up of experienced administrative law and labour lawyers and a union representative versed in labour disputes. It had a greater expertise than the Court in interpreting collective agreements. However, the Court has expertise in interpreting contracts and in statutory interpretation of legislation. On this head, the balance was neutral and deference should be given.

Third, the purpose of the School Act in this context is to regulate and establish terms and conditions of employment for teachers in the province, and is, therefore, labour relations related to and at the core of the expertise and mandate of the panel. This favoured a standard of review of reasonableness.

Finally, the issue in this case was an application of the facts to a statute, and properly characterized as a question of mixed fact and law which favoured some deference. Taking into account all of the factors, the balance in this case was clearly in favour of deference to the board. The proper standard of review was reasonableness.

Applying this standard to the panel’s decision, the Court found that the arguments advanced in support of the award were not only tenable, but compelling. The award was not only reasonable, but it was manifestly correct. In the result, the application for judicial review was denied.

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