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School bus driver loses second bid to get job back

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Manitoba’s labour tribunal has once again thrown out a school bus driver’s claim his union failed to adequately represent him when he was fired for participating in an anti-COVID-19 restriction rally and bad-mouthing his employer on social media.

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Manitoba’s labour tribunal has once again thrown out a school bus driver’s claim his union failed to adequately represent him when he was fired for participating in an anti-COVID-19 restriction rally and bad-mouthing his employer on social media.

“The review application discloses no new evidence that would call for a different decision or ruling than that reached in the dismissal order,” wrote Colin Robinson, chairman of the Manitoba Labour Board, in a ruling dated Sept. 1.

The independent board issued an initial decision on the matter — a dismissal order — on May 6, exactly one year after the Lord Selkirk School Division terminated an employee “for cause.”

Ian Kathwaroon has repeatedly maintained he was “illegally fired.”

The Selkirk resident, who began his employment with the division in 2015, alleges he was disciplined as a result of harassment related to his political views.

Kathwaroon has run for federal office under the People’s Party of Canada twice and is outspoken about his fringe views on masking, among other controversial subjects, on his personal and public Facebook pages.

In the labour board’s initial ruling in the spring, Robinson outlined the events that led to the firing and concluded Unifor Local 191 did not fail to fulfil its duty of representation by not challenging the disciplinary action.

The staff member was among hundreds of protesters who descended on The Forks on April 25, 2021, to oppose public health orders. At the time, outdoor gatherings in Manitoba were restricted to 10 people.

Tribunal documents note the bus driver, referred to as “T.S.,” uploaded photos while posing unmasked with others at the rally, from whom he was not socially distanced, to a social media profile that declared his employment with Lord Selkirk.

The division reported receiving complaints from parents in connection to the posts and as a result, a manager interviewed the driver about the situation after he completed his route on the morning after the mass gathering, according to tribunal documents.

“The employer determined that the applicant was unapologetic and had challenged his direct supervisor during the interview,” Robinson wrote in the May 6 decision.

“The employer placed (Kathwaroon) on administrative leave pending an investigation. In response to being placed on leave, (the driver) posted on social media that the employer had ‘suspended’ him and defiantly stated: ‘What I do on my own time is my business.’”

Citing his conduct on both April 25 and 26, Lord Selkirk fired Kathwaroon.

Kathwaroon indicated he plans to take further action on the file, but did not disclose what that meant Tuesday.

maggie.macintosh@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh
Reporter

Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

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