Work Grievances

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A grievance is a formal, itemized complaint to management that it has treated one or more employees unfairly or has violated the contract or collective bargaining agreement. ( There are basically two types of grievances: Individual grievances are where a member has a complaint about pay or working arrangements. Collective problems or grievances occur when a group of members has a problem that needs to be discussed or negotiated with management. These grievances can be dealt with through ad hoc meetings, formal negotiating, or dispute procedures. Personal problems might not necessarily be the employers' responsibility, though the union steward may still get involved. However, some problems that appear “personal” for instance; stress or childcare arrangements, can and should be dealt with as employment issues and might also raise collective negotiating issues. Some issues get referred to as “professional”, which seems to suggest they are not of legitimate trade union concern. Professional issues include service quality, training and qualifications. These should however, be the subject of joint consultation and negotiation with recognized unions. Some employers have special procedures for dealing with harassment and/or bullying complaints. If not, they would use the grievance procedure. Likewise, if the employer does not have specific procedures for dealing with discrimination, they would also use the grievance procedure. In the case of capability/ill health, some employers are keen to introduce procedures that make it easier for managers to deal with poor job performance or sickness absence. Most problems at work are experienced as individual problems. A member who is suffering from bullying or harassment or having problems with their supervisor will often feel that they have been singled out for unfair treatment. The key question that decides grievances involving discipline is: "Did management have “just cause” for imposing the discipline?" Keep in mind that not all workplace complaints are grievances. Moreover, filing a grievance does not mean that a situation will change automatically. Winning a grievance depends on the facts and evidence the union can collect on an issue. Working closely with the steward will improve an employee’s chances of success. Other important questions to consider:

Did management have good reason to discipline the worker?

Was the action consistent with past practice?

Was the worker treated as other workers have been treated?

Did management take action that was appropriate for the offense?

For grievances not involving discipline, it is important to consider whether management's action was a violation of:

The contract;

Federal, state, or local laws.

Employer rules; past practice;

Equal treatment standards for all workers.

In most union environments, lots of problems are settled informally, but because they're not put into writing, the stewards involved in these cases don't consider them grievances. The Union Grievance Action Sheet helps remedy this problem. At the same time, organizes the information stewards need to know before talking to the boss. Keep in mind, these forms will not establish legally-binding precedents, but they will give your local union a record of how problems have been handled informally, and can be very useful when similar problems come up. (

Informal Conference:

Within ten (10) calendar days after either an employee or the Union has reason to know of the incident which is the subject of the grievance, the employee involved (or the Union, as provided below) will request a conference with a member of management. Such a conference shall be held within five (5) work days of the request. Within five (5) workdays after the informal hearing, a member of management will state his decision....
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