No holiday pay for workers on day of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral

'One would have expected the proclamation to use similar wording to that used in 1952,' says B.C. tribunal

No holiday pay for workers on day of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral

Private sector workers in British Columbia who worked on the day of the funeral of the late Queen Elizabeth II will not be paid overtime, a judge ruled, citing the language used in government announcements.

"Neither level of government declared the day as a holiday for anyone beyond those specified. As a result, the grievance cannot succeed," read a ruling from Randall Noonan, arbitrator at British Columbia's labour arbitration board.

Representing thousands of tradesworkers across B.C., the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, Local 170 and Millwrights Union, Local 2736 had argued that the national day of mourning for the late monarch on Sept. 19 should have been recognized as a statutory holiday based on five different collective agreements, which would have entitled the workers to extra pay.

Union claims

The unions claimed that – aside from the statements from the prime minister, federal minister of labour and the premier – the federal proclamation issued by Governor-General Mary Simon on Sept. 13, 2022 was more than enough to constitute a declaration of the day as a holiday.

“Now know you that we, by and with the advice of our Privy Council for Canada, do by this our proclamation request that the people of Canada set aside September 19, 2022, as the day on which they honour the memory of her late majesty Queen Elizabeth the second, who passed away on Sept. 8,2022,” read part of the proclamation.

“We have chosen to move forward with a federal holiday on Monday,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau back then.

Meanwhile, Premier John Horgan later noted that the province “will follow the lead of the federal government and join with other provinces in observing the national day of mourning to mark the Queen’s funeral.”

Historical proclamations

In its defence, the employer – the Construction Labour Relations Association of British Columbia – pointed to government documents pertaining to the passing of Queen Elizabeth II’s ancestors: the proclamation issued on May 14, 1910 following the death of King Edward VII, and the proclamation issued on Feb. 15, 1952 following the death of King George VI.

In the 1910 document, then-Attorney General Charles Murphy noted: “We do hereby appoint and set apart, Friday, the Twentieth day of May instant as a day of general mourning to be observed by all persons throughout the Dominion of Canada.”

In the 1952 document, Hugues Lapointe, then acting attorney general said: “We do hereby appoint and set apart Friday, the fifteenth instant as a Public Holiday to be observed as a Day of General Mourning by all persons throughout Canada.”

That difference in wording represents a significant policy difference, said the arbitrator.

“In 1952, the federal government determined that the Day of General Mourning would be a public holiday. In 2022, the government decidedly avoided declaring the day to be a public holiday and proclaimed instead that the day be set aside for the people of Canada to honour the memory of the Queen, said Noonan.

He noted that the statement from Trudeau’s office clearly designated a holiday with limited application “for the public service of Canada” and that other employers were “invited to recognize the National Day of Mourning.” 

“Had the federal government intended the day to be a holiday applying to anyone other than those in the public service of Canada, one would have expected the proclamation to use similar wording to that used in 1952 or that the Prime Minister’s statement would have indicated that,” said Noonan in the ruling.

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