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Finally, the Tribunal found that, although the parties agreed to include the term “restructuring operational” in the LOU, there was no evidence that they attempted to agree on what those words meant. The court found that the two sides had “deliberately avoided clarifying the language in order to reach an agreement”. 9 In these circumstances, there was no basis for preferring the subjective intent of one party to another, so the evidence of negotiation was of little importance to the interpretation. In moving closer to the LOU`s interpretation, the arbitrator was bound by the long series of working arbitration, which states that an arbitrator must first find that a collective agreement is ambiguous before providing all the evidence on the terms of the agreement itself, including evidence of the surrounding circumstances. The Adjudicator found that the term “operational restructuring” was ambiguous, allowing him to consider extrinsic evidence. As a first point, the court found that the work-conciliatory jurisprudence, which is that an arbitrator must first find that a collective agreement is ambiguous before considering the extrinsic evidence is no longer applicable in the light of Sattva. On the contrary, the arbitrator of Sattva`s work must consider the evidence of the circumstances relevant to the interpretation of a collective agreement, whether the agreement is ambiguous or not. The Tribunal was not concerned with the Adjudicator`s finding that the LOU was ambiguous on the facts of the case in this case, since the terms “operational restructuring” were reasonably capable of more than one interpretation. Finally, the AUPE is particularly noteworthy in the context of labour arbitration, as it removes the long-standing rule that an arbitrator must find that an agreement is ambiguous before considering extrinsic evidence, in favour of the modern rule that the surrounding circumstances must always be taken into account in the interpretation of a contract.
In this case, the focus was on the meaning of the terms “operational restructuring” in a collective agreement between the Alberta Provincial Employees Association and the Alberta Health Services (AHS). AHS had implemented a program called Operational Best Practices (OBP) and had publicly promised that the OBP would not result in job losses for unionized workers.