03/25/2012 05:33 EDT | Updated 05/25/2012 05:12 EDT

EI workers not surprised Finley complaint failed

Employment insurance workers on Prince Edward Island are not surprised that their complaint against the federal minister of human resources and skills development has been dismissed, says their union.

Donna MacDonald, national vice-president of Canada Employment and Immigration Union for P.E.I., said it shows that it's difficult to win a grievance against a cabinet minister.

"How do you grieve a minister? You know, they're not going to say. 'Oh yeah, I did wrong.' Especially someone at that level, the minister's level, " MacDonald said.

She said having a human resource employee review the complaint seems like a conflict-of-interest because his boss is Minister Diane Finley.

"I question whether there's a conflict-of-interest because in the normal grievance procedure, if you're grieving something that a manager has done, the grievance goes to the next level — the manager's manager," MacDonald said.

"So, in this instance, it went to a person in human resources who was delegated the authority to hear it. But I question someone's ability to hear a grievance on their own boss."

The union representing the workers filed a complaint against Finley for comments she made to the Charlottetown Guardian last November in which she blamed Island employees for a processing backlog of EI claims.

"We felt we had to make a statement to the government saying, 'Listen, we are not going to accept public comments like this in the newspaper when they are so, so untrue,'" MacDonald said.

"When she [Finley] made those comments, my members were going in to work early and working through their lunches and their breaks and not getting compensated for it, either, in order to get the EI claimants paid as quickly as possible."

MacDonald said this is the first time the union has filed a grievance against a federal minister.

She said the union is now deciding its next course of action. The workers had been hoping for a public apology from Finley.

The Montague facility, with 30 employees, still has one of the highest levels of productivity in the country, she said.

The office is slated to close in March 2014.