What a steward
* Steward's responsibilities
* The grievance procedure
* Investigating grievances
* Past practice grievances
* Steward rights
* Just cause for discipline
* Breaking in a new boss
* Management rights
THE STEWARD & GRIEVANCE PROCEDURE
What is a grievance?
grievance refers to a written statement made according to the
grievance procedure included in the collective agreement. It deals
with any dispute concerning the interpretation, the application, the
administration or the alleged violation of any clause of the
The purpose of the
facts from the member who has a complaint. The steward must listen
closely to the member who comes with a problem. Get all the facts. Make
sure you give the member enough time to give you all the relevant
- The grievance
procedure is at the heart of the collective agreement. It allows the
union steward to draw up a grievance on behalf of the members. It is
recognition by the employer that members have the right to he heard
- The procedure
can have two to four steps. At each step, representatives of the
union and the employer meet. Make sure you know the time limits for
each step of the procedure.
- When a case is
settled through a grievance, it can serve as a precedent, or a model
on which the merits of similar cases will be assessed in the future.
Precedents are usually very important because they establish how the
union and the employer will interpret the collective agreement from
- Take notes.
- Use the CEP
At times, a member
takes it for granted that you know his or her work well and forgets to
tell you important details. To avoid this, follow the five W's method.
Name of member or group of members.
The employee's number, classification,
work station, etc.
What is involved?
Unpaid hours? A violation of seniority
rights? Discrimination? Overtime'?
When did it happen?
The required information includes the
official date of the grievance, the date of the incident that
led to the grievance, the date of the submission of the
grievance and the employer's response. Make note of all the
important dates related to the incident.
Where did it happen?
Describe as clearly as possible the case
history and where it took place. Indicate the shop, the machine,
the purpose, the plant, etc.
Why did it happen?
reason for the grievance. This question is the key to the
grievance, so it must be clearly expressed.
Whenever you collect information, use the
required investigation form. Why?
- You can forget things.
- When facts are laid out in black and white,
it is easier to determine the merits of the case.
- When the grievance is completed, you have a
file that can be used as a precedent for similar grievances in the
- The investigation report can be used by the
negotiating committee when the time comes to renew the collective
- The difference between winning and
losing a grievance can depend on the thoroughness of the information
you have collected. When you write your report, remember that others
will have to refer to it.
- The investigation report can always be used
as proof to the members of the work you and the union have done for
Is the grievance
It is best to
have a thorough discussion with the member before determining
whether the Grievance is well founded. If in doubt, consult other
stewards as well as union leaders. They can help you make a
Do not proceed with
grievances that are not well founded. A member may believe he or she
has a grievance because of a misunderstanding of the collective
agreement. Personality conflicts or a misreading of the collective
agreement are not legitimate grievances.
Agreeing to lodge
this type of grievance may mislead the member and undermine your
credibility with the employer. If you are sure that there isn't a
valid grievance, tell the member, explain why and show him or her
the section of the collective agreement that supports you argument.
Be firm but be tactful in order to keep the member's trust.
The wording of the
Once you have
determined that you are dealing with a legitimate grievance, make
sure to word it properly. Here are the steps to follow:
- Obtain the appropriate grievance form.
- Include all the details required on the
- Define the nature of the grievance, use the
least number of words possible and ask for the help of your chief
steward if necessary.
- State clearly the expected outcome. If a
financial statement is involved, do not forget to claim interest.
- Date the document and have the employee
sign it. Do not forget to sign it yourself.
- Submit it to management within the required
Should the member attend
the grievance hearing?
Always take the
member with you, except in special circumstances, e.g. if a member
threatens to physically attack the supervisor.
If you go to see
management alone, the member may believe that the grievance was not
presented properly and could end up blaming you unjustly. Together,
you can present a better-prepared and more detailed case. Before
meeting with the employer, the member should be warned that the
steward will talk on his or her behalf. The member should only
respond to questions that are asked by the steward.
from presenting grievances on their own. A member who is not
familiar with the collective agreement could he easily influenced
and decide to drop the grievance or accept a settlement that would
weaken the collective agreement.
To best analyze the facts, talk less and
listen carefully. Communication is a two way street.
Let the employer make his own case.
Do not let anyone side-track you. Stick to
the question in dispute.
Avoid tit-for-tat bargaining on grievances.
Avoid personality conflicts. Do not provoke
or ridicule the employer.
Do not lose your temper. Create a climate
of mutual respect and avoid making threats.
Do not get involved in discussions of
Consult other stewards or union
Keep the member informed about the outcome
of the grievance.