The dispute began on Dec. 27, 2003, when Mr. Julien, a border services officer in Quebec, got called in to work. It was a Saturday, normally a day off for Mr. Julien.
He worked a regular 11-hour shift that day and put in another three hours when asked by his supervisor. Mr. Julien was paid time and a half for the shift and double time for the extra three hours (border officers make between $51,000 and $55,000 annually).
But when Mr. Julien asked for $9 to cover a meal, he was refused. He argued that, under the collective agreement, officers were entitled to the meal allowance if they worked three hours beyond their normal shift. But his supervisors said that did not apply when officers worked on holidays because they were already getting overtime pay.
Mr. Julien didn't back down. He filed a grievance on Feb. 16, 2004. The grievance went through various levels before finally being turned down on Jan. 23, 2006.
Mr. Julien didn't stop there. He took his case to the Public Services Labour Relations Board. During a hearing last June, representatives for Mr. Julien and the government clashed.
Mr. Julien's lawyer, Amarkai Laryea from the Public Service Alliance of Canada, argued that, under clause 28.09 (a), he was clearly entitled to the $9 allowance. Mr. Laryea added that the Canada Border Services Agency had paid similar allowances to others.
But Caroline Proulx, who represented the government, said other sections of the agreement made it clear that the meal allowance did not have to be paid.
Adjudicator Renaud Paquet sided with Mr. Julien. In a ruling dated Aug. 12, Mr. Paquet said the agreement provided for the meal allowance when employees work three hours beyond a normal shift.
"This is exactly what happened to [Mr. Julien] on December 27, 2003. Accordingly, the employer should pay him a meal allowance of $9, which it did not do." Mr. Paquet ordered the government to immediately pay him the $9.
Mr. Julien could not be reached and Mr. Laryea declined comment. An official with PSAC said the case may look trite, but the issue is important to thousands of public servants.
"This is a bread-and-butter administration of labour relations in the broader public service and to some people it looks like $9, but to others this is how labour relations work," the official said. "He got his $9."