Unless an order is illegal, unhealthy or unsafe, advise members to “obey now, grieve later”. If you don’t know the answer to a question, check with your area office.
Try to settle early. The higher it goes, the tougher it gets. Upper management usually don’t want to overrule their supervisors.
The completed grievance form must explain the complaint, explain why management’s actions are contrary to the agreement, and fully outline the remedy requested. Keep a copy.
Be aware of time limits and stay within them. But don’t drop a grievance if you do miss a deadline.
Investigate promptly. Take notes, in a bound notebook. Witnesses disappear. Memories fade.
Ask the grievor to write out the full story – names, dates, places, actual quotes – and to date and sign it. Make sure the grievor gives you a full statement regarding his/her employment and disciplinary record.
If you know of violations of the collective agreement, encourage members to file grievances. That’s how we make sure the employer respects our contract.
Separate personal vendettas from real grievances. Make sure the grievor knows what the issues are.
Interview witnesses who support the grievor and those who do not. You want to know what really happened and what you’re up against.
Collect statements from all witnesses – signed, dated and in their own handwriting. Alternatively, write out the witness’ story yourself and have the witness sign it to confirm it’s accurate. If that’s not possible, add a note that you read the statement to the witness and the witness confirmed it was correct.
Gather all available documents, such as seniority lists, medical records, and absentee records. Check past practices. Review the collective agreement.
In a discharge or discipline case, after the grievor has given you a statement, ask whether the reasons that management has given are the real reasons or whether there are other reasons that the grievor suspects.
Present a united front when meeting with the management. Plan and prepare your case. There should be only one spokesperson. If others wish to speak then it should be planned before the meeting. You can also call a caucus to discuss additional information and determine who presents it.
Keep your member(s) informed at every stage. Be honest. Brief your member before every meeting with management. If you have to meet with a manager on your own, explain why you are doing it.
Try to anticipate the management’s position. Be firm. Don’t lose your temper. Show respect, but demand equal respect. It’s your job to fight for the member’s rights. No horse-trading; each grievance stands on its own merits.
Make notes of meetings. Write down management’s side of the story.
Don’t accept a management argument that the grievance is not valid or arbitrable. That’s for an arbitrator to decide.
Grievances are the property of the union. Your BCGEU staff representative may decide to withdraw the grievance after further investigation. The member may then exercise the right to appeal (BCGEU Constitution, Article 11).
Unions and their stewards have a legal duty to represent employees. You cannot ignore a grievance or drop it in a manner that is arbitrary, discriminatory or in bad faith
Be a good winner and a good loser. There’s a next time.
Remember: when you are dealing with a supervisor you are acting as an officer of the BCGEU. As a steward you are an equal with management’s representative.