Abby Schools

Abbotsford school bus driver’s labour complaint parked

Michael Wester claimed a disciplinary action was ‘conspired and fraudulent’ to cover up another incident

An Abbotsford school bus driver’s complaint against the school district and his union over a “conspired and fraudulent” disciplinary action has been dismissed in a recent ruling by the B.C. Labour Board.

The years-long dispute stems from a pair of incidents on May 1, 2015, which resulted in Michael Wester, a bus driver of 15 years, getting a written warning from the school district.

In the warning, the district said Wester turned off his engine when reminded of the no-idling policy by a co-worker at Ross Road Elementary, before driving away in an “aggressive manner” with children still standing in the aisle. Wester denies that he did so.

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“The Employer also said that after the Complainant completed his route that day he approached another driver who was with a trainee and used profanity and made inappropriate and threatening remarks to him,” B.C. Labour Board vice-chair Andres Barker wrote in the Jan. 3, 2019 ruling.

“The Employer also conveyed through the Written Warning that the Complainant’s actions during the investigation meeting indicated he was unwilling to accept responsibility and was not honest and forthright during the interview process.”

In his complaint, Wester said the Ross Road Elementary infraction was manufactured to cover up a minor bus crash during the second incident. Before he was alleged to have approached his co-worker with profane and threatening remarks, Wester claimed he witnessed a trainee, coached by the co-worker, crash into another bus while backing into a stall.

“The Complainant describes [his co-worker] as then being in an agitated state and adamantly asserting there was no damage to either bus despite the damage being apparent to the Complainant,” the ruling reads.

A few days later, Wester found that the crash was not reported and brought it to the attention of a supervisor, who said he did not know about the crash.

In his ruling, Barker did not buy Wester’s arguments.

Wester claimed the union, a Teamsters local, was not aware of all relevant information and therefore acted arbitrarily, unable to make a reasoned decision.

Among the six items of relevant information that Wester claimed the union did not know was that his supervisor and two co-workers were “discrediting and conspiring against (him) in order to ‘cover up’ the bus collision he witnessed,” according to the ruling.

Barker wrote that Wester did not explain “how he or his Counsel were deprived of the opportunity to provide this information to the Union for its consideration during the almost 3.5 years between the incident and the Union’s final refusal to proceed to arbitration.”

“Although the Complainant believes he was the target of an organized conspiracy to [suppress] his witnessing of the bus collision, what is absent in his submissions to the Board is an explanation of how the allegations against the Complainant could have served to ‘cover up’ the bus collision,” Barker wrote.

“A union is not obliged to accept a complainant’s version of events and proceed to arbitration on that basis. The Complainant does not say his version of events was never communicated to the Union, and has otherwise provided no evidence upon which I could find the Union did not consider his version of events.”

It is not immediately clear whether Wester is still employed with the school district. An offer had been made by the school district to pay him to voluntarily resign, and eventually to strike the written warning from his record, but the settlement was not accepted prior to the B.C. Labour Board arbitration.

Find more of our coverage on the Abbotsford School District here.

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Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

@dustinrgodfrey

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