Arbitrator holds Registered Nurse – First Assistant not a new job classification

In The Ottawa Hospital and Ontario Nurses’ Association (May, 2014), Arbitrator Felicity Briggs dismissed a grievance filed by the Ontario Nurses’ Association and held that the position of Registered Nurse-First Assistant (RFNA) in the Cardiac Operating Room (OR) of the Heart Institute of The Ottawa Hospital was not a new job classification, and therefore did not give rise to the obligation to negotiate a new salary scale.  André Champagne of Emond Harnden successfully represented the Hospital in this interesting job classification case.

By way of background, in 2008, the Heart Institute Ottawa used funding for a pilot project to implement the new role of RNFA in its Cardiac OR. Evidence at the hearing indicated that RNFAs had the following three responsibilities that other nurses, and more particularly other OR nurses at the hospital did not share:

  • handling and dissecting tissues in collaboration with the surgeon to achieve haemostasis;
  • suturing muscle, fascia, subcutaneous and skin tissue in collaboration with the surgeon; and
  • placing drains as surgically indicated.

In 2010, the Union filed a grievance alleging that these additional duties constituted a new job classification and that the Hospital violated the Collective Agreement by failing to negotiate a salary scale for RNFAs.  The union relied in part on the fact that all other hospitals in Ontario utilizing RNFAs had different wage rates, and therefore a new classification of Registered Nurse was created.

However, Arbitrator Briggs (a former R.N. herself) disagreed.  She noted that the determination of whether a new job classification had been created involved two steps:

  • an assessment of whether the RFNA job was substantially different both qualitatively and quantitatively from the regular Registered Nurse category; and
  • a determination of whether those differences resulted in a job that is no longer with the scope of the classification of Registered Nurse having assessed all other positions within that classification

In applying the above test, Arbitrator Briggs found that although there were some differences in the work performed by RNFAs compared to other nurses at The Ottawa Hospital, those differences were not quantitatively or qualitatively substantial enough to find that a new classification had been established.

In dismissing the grievance, the arbitrator was careful to point out that her determination was specific to RNFAs at the Cardiac OR of the Heart Institute of The Ottawa Hospital based on their particular job functions, and was not determinative of the classification of RNFAs at other hospitals.

For further information, please contact André Champagne at (613) 940-2735.


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