Also read: The difference between a union and non-union workplace

Transcript for “What Every Union Member Needs to Know: Part 2”

Why are grievances important?

Grievances are important because, depending on the type of concern the employee may have, it may be the only mechanism available to the employee for remedying their concern. For example, an employee has the ability to pursue a potential breach of their human rights through a grievance or a human rights complaint filed with the appropriate provincial or federal tribunal. However, the grievance process is the only means available to an employee to remedy or resolve the employer’s breach of a term of the employee’s right provided for under the collective agreement, such as issues relating to the employees pay, benefits, promotional opportunities, to name a few.

What happens once a grievance is submitted?

Once a grievance is submitted, the union and the employer engage in informal discussions to try to resolve the grievance. These discussions are typically referred to as Level I or Level II discussions, depending on whether the discussions are taking place with the employee’s supervisor, manager, or members of upper management. The last step in any grievance process is the referral of the grievance to arbitration. However, employees should be aware that the decision of whether a grievance should be referred to arbitration or withdrawn lies solely within the discretion of the Union. That is why it is important for the employer to cooperate with the union during the grievance discussions and provide any and all information that supports the employees’ position so that the Union is fully informed of the strengths of the employee’s case before deciding on how to proceed with the grievance.

What is an arbitration?

Arbitration is the term that is used to refer to the process where the union and the employer mutually agree to appoint an experienced adjudicator to decide the issue raised in the grievance. The adjudicator or decision maker is commonly referred to as the arbitrator.

The Union and the employer are bound by the arbitrator’s finding in relation to the issue raised in the grievance and will have to act in accordance with any order issued by the arbitrator following the conclusion of the arbitration hearing.

During the arbitration hearing, the union and the employer each present their evidence and arguments to the arbitrator. Following the conclusion of the arbitration hearing, the arbitrator will take some time to decide the grievance and will issue a written decision to that effect that is then presented to the union and the employer.

The arbitrator may uphold the grievance, in which case it may also decide what is the appropriate remedy for the employer’s breach of the terms of the collective agreement or legislation. Alternatively, the arbitrator may dismiss the grievance which effectively concludes the matter.

How do I submit a grievance?

As I stated earlier, an employee who wishes to file a grievance should first review their collective agreement to see whether they can file the grievance on their own, or whether the grievance has to be filed by a representative of the Union, like a Shop Steward or Business Agent.

If the provisions of the collective agreement are not clear, the employee should consult with their Shop Steward. The shop Steward is a union representative who is also an employee and a member of the bargaining unit, who can assist the employee with understanding their rights and obligations under the collective agreement.

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