An arbitrator has handed down his decision on the dismissal of a road crew worker at Teck’s Elkview Operations in Sparwood. File photo

Dismissal of Kootenay mine worker upheld

Arbitrator rules Teck justified in dismissal of Kootenay worker accused of harassment and bullying

This story has been updated with more information.

An arbitrator has upheld Teck Coal’s decision to fire a man who harassed and bullied a fellow employee at Elkview Operations in Sparwood.

Guy Travis’ contract with the mining company was terminated on June 5, 2017, after a series of incidents, the most serious of which occurred several weeks earlier during an argument over a breach of a company policy on magazines.

According to court documents obtained by The Free Press, the dispute arose about 7:40 a.m. on May 16, 2017, as Travis was clocking off his night shift with the road crew and the complainant, Dave Armstrong, was starting his day shift.

The men had both worked at Teck for more than 20 years, however, relations in recent years were “not very good”, according to Armstrong.

He claimed Travis was angry and his neck and face “beet red” when he addressed him in front of the entire road crew on May 16.

Armstrong said Travis put his finger “in my face” and said: “I hear that you got a problem with (expletive) magazines; don’t go to the (expletive) Company, you come and see me; you (expletive) got that; I’ll tell you what you do with the magazine; you roll it up and take it back where you (expletive) found it; now you (expletive) got that?”

A supervisor intervened and Travis was sent to the showers, while Armstrong denied any knowledge of the magazine, which had been reported to a supervisor.

He later told his wife and general manager Roy Vicic about the incident, which continued to haunt him.

According to the court documents, Armstrong had trouble sleeping in the months that followed and at one point called 911 to talk to a police officer.

He ultimately sought help from a counsellor provided by Teck and said he would not be comfortable with Travis returning to work.

Arbitrator Stan Lanyon found that Travis intentionally harassed, intimidated and bullied Armstrong and had a history of making “digs” that amounted to harassment.

“The result was that Mr. Armstrong was ‘scared’ to come to work,” said Lanyon.

“I conclude that no one is required to work in fear of his fellow employees, nor does any employee have to ‘put up’ with or accept harassment and bullying as the price of their employment.”

Travis was represented by Colin Gusikowski from United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9346, who argued that his conduct was consistent with the blue collar culture at the mine and the conversations were no more than “locker room talk”.

Lanyon rejected this rationale on the basis that it involves “the breach of harassment and bullying policies or conduct in violation of the Human Rights Code”.

He found that the May 16 incident was not out of character for Travis, who recognized he had a problem with anger for which he had received counselling.

Travis started with the company in 1993 and his employment record shows he was disciplined on several other occasions for unprofessional and inappropriate behaviour, and his treatment of employees.

He had already been given two Final Letters of Discipline – one on May 24, 2012, and the other on December 23, 2015 – when his contract was terminated.

Based on this information, Lanyon ruled Teck was justified in firing Travis and dismissed the grievance.

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