Saskatchewan

Sask. city worker fired after texting too much

The City of Estevan, Sask., will not have to rehire a worker accused of texting when he was supposed to be filling potholes.

The City of Estevan, Sask., will not have to rehire a worker accused of texting when he was supposed to be filling potholes.

In a decision published online this week, a Saskatchewan arbitration panel ruled that the city was within its rights to fire the 20-year-old public works employee in 2010.

The man was hired as a general labourer and was supposed to sweep, unplug sewers, fix potholes and perform various other chores in Estevan, a city of about 10,000 people located 200 kilometres southeast of Regina.

However, his supervisors had several problems with his job performance and he didn't make probation.

The biggest complaint was that "he was constantly texting and checking texts on his cell phone," according to the 32-page arbitration decision.

Sent one day to patch potholes, the employee "sat in the truck texting" while a colleague did the work, a supervisor said.

Assigned to fill a barrel with water, the employee was found "with the radio blaring and texting on his cell phone, oblivious to the fact that a valve near the bottom of the water drum was open and the water was just running out of the barrel," the decision noted.

When told to stop texting on city time, he told his supervisor he had a second job at a radio station and his boss there often texted him.

Union put up fight

Last March, he was told he was terminated, but the union then fought to get his job back, arguing that there should have been a shop steward present when he was fired.

At a hearing in January, the man denied some of the allegations, could not recall some of the incidents and had explanations for others.

He admitted he was texting during work hours, but said his supervisors brought it up only twice. He also denied texting while his colleague filled potholes.

The chair of the arbitration panel said he found the City of Estevan's witnesses more credible and while there should have been a union rep at the firing, the man was properly terminated. The panel dismissed the grievance.

After being fired, the man eventually landed on his feet, getting a job at a furniture store as a delivery man.

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