What is a Grievance?
A grievance is a violation of the employee's rights on the job. It is the steward's job to determine what right was violated or if the grievance is legitimate, e.g., is it a complaint or an official grievance?
- Most employees' rights are contained in the collective agreement, so this is the first place you, as a member or a steward, must look to see if there is a grievance. If the grievance is a clear cut violation of the contract, it will be easy to prove, provided you stick to your guns. If it is an interpretive issue, it can be more difficult. Either one though, constitutes a legitimate grievance. If it is an interpretive issue, previous arbitration cases on similar or same language will help you prepare your argument.
- Violation of Federal or Provincial Law. Here you may be filing a grievance or dealing directly with the appropriate agency to deal with the issue, or you may do both. It may be a Health and Safety violation or Human Rights violation, both of which deal with a separate agency. Most collective agreements have specified language on this.
- Violation of past practice in the workplace. This can be the basis for a grievance, particularly in areas where the contract is silent or unclear or where a past practice has been violated by the management. But to To be considered as a past practice, the circumstances must have been:
- repeated over an extended period of time,
- accepted explicitly or implicitly by both workers and management, e.g., by verbal agreement or in writing without either side formally objecting; or
- while violating the contract, neither side has demanded that this part of the contract be enforced.
4. Complaints must be dealt with. If you think your rights have been violated, see your steward. They will do the investigation and let you know whether there has been a violation. If there hasn't, they will clearly explain why.
Types of Grievances
A steward can classify grievances according to where they come from and how they arise. We also classify grievances according to who is affected.
- Individual grievance - A complaint that an action by management has violated the rights of an individual as set out in the collective agreement, law or some unfair practice. The steward will file the grievance and require your signature so that it can be processed. When an individual's right have been violated and they refuse to sign a grievance, the steward may still file the grievance on behalf of the union. In this way, the collective agreement is still being defended and it shows management that the union will not acquiesce. If you don't file, it may be that the employer will continue violating the agreement, and when you finally do file, you may lose because you acquiesced.
- Group grievance(also called "et-all") - A complaint by a group of workers, a department, or shift, that has been affected the same way and at the same time by an action taken by management. An example would be where a shift wasn't given premium pay as per the agreement.
- Policy grievance - A complaint by the union that an action of management, (or its failure for refusal to act) is a violation of the agreement that could affect all who are covered by the agreement. A policy grievance normally relates to the interpretation of the contract rather than the complaint of an individual. A steward doesn't deal with this directly as the standard grievance form is not filled out. The steward informs the staff of the union who will send a letter, stating the issue is one of policy and that the issue will be forwarded automatically to Step 3 or the arbitration procedure.
- Union grievance - This grievance involves an issue where the union's rights have been violated. The grievance would be from the union itself. An example of this would be where the employer did not deduct union dues, or did not allow union leave to the bargaining committee.
Your steward may recommend that you file a grievance.
It is important that the grievance is presented factually when filing. As a member who is filing a grievance, you need to ensure that you give as many of the facts as possible to the Steward. Here are the six W's to remember when filing a grievance:
WHO: is involved? The member's full name, employer, branch or division, title and job classification. Name and title of supervisors or witnesses need to be accurate.
WHAT: happened that caused the violation? Disciplinary action? Substitution pay not given? Safety violations? You need the story of what occurred in chronological order.
WHEN: did the violation occur? Ensure dates and times are included. Include how often and how long.
WHERE: did it occur? Give exact location or locations if event occurred in different places. Have pictures or drawings if applicable.
WHY: is this considered to be a grievance or complaint? Was there a direct violation of an article(s) in the collective agreement? A violation of an Act or Code, an arbitral award, past practice issue?
WANT: this relates to adjustments that are required by the union to correct the injustice. Always ask for "full redress" in order to make the member whole, e.g., all wages lost, file cleared, vacation returned.