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
A Practical How-To Guide
A member - or
members come to you. Theyíre mad. Really mad. "Itís
unfair...itís a violation of the contract...itís
illegal...and itís not right!" You think to yourself, "yeah,
this is terrible. Iíd better do something." But what do you
If your answer is "demand an explanation from management,"
you may want to think again. Sure, some problems are obvious
grievances, but most of the time youíll need to know a lot
more about whatís going on. Jumping to conclusions based on
false, faulty, or inadequate information will only undermine
your credibility, and the unionís.
Know the issues thoroughly. . . It's the only way to handle
member whoís upset, angry, and frustrated may not always
give you an accurate picture of what happened. A disgruntled
member may sometimes exaggerate and leave out important
details. Itís up to you to investigate, look at the facts,
and then decide on a strategy for dealing with the problem.
step in your investigation is to conduct effective
Get the information you need from an upset member after
theyíve calmed down, either by taking them aside and talking
for awhile, or by meeting with them later.
Here are some
time-tested tips for getting the most information.
Make sure youíre relaxed ó and take your time. Listening is
the key, so control your feelings and concentrate on hearing
what the member says. Write down important facts, including
who, what, when, where, how, why, and the names of any
member to "get it all out" (both facts and feelings).
Ask questions that canít be answered yes-or-no when you
donít understand something or when you need to clear
something up, such as: "Why do you think this happened?" Or,
"Give me an example."
Once in awhile, repeat back to the worker what youíve heard
them say. This checks your accuracy and often brings out
Avoid making judgments during the interview. Form your
opinion later, after youíve gathered the facts.
Avoid making promises about the actions you will take.
Assure the worker that you will investigate and let them
know when youíll get back to them. Make sure you do!
If you donít know the answer to a question, donít guess.
member youíll find out and get back to them (and do it!).
A Full Investigation:
everyone connected to the problem in the same manner. Talk
to other workers, any witnesses, other stewards, even
foremen and supervisors. Never depend on a single version of
what happened, if you can avoid it. And remember, interviews
are one way of getting at the facts, but theyíre not the
Check documents and records that could help you decide what
happened and what should be done. They include:
Past grievances, stewardís notes, and
The contract and supplemental agreements;
Employer policies and work rules, and,
Information that you may need from the boss.
gathered all the facts, then itís time to put your case
together (if there is one), and determine what strategy (big
plan) and tactics (smaller moves) that can be used to solve
Other Sources for getting
and complete information is vital in fighting grievances.
But where and how do we get it?
First we should look to ourselves. An informed steward not
only knows the contract, but the past practices of the
department. A wealth of knowledge exists among the members
as well. And of course the local union should keep records.
But sometimes that still isnít enough to be properly
Help can come from an unexpected sourceóthe employer! Itís
not because they want to provide information. The union is
entitled to it under the Labour Relations Act (LRA).
The steward may request information:
Before a grievance
is filed to see if the contract may have been
At or between any
step of the grievance procedure.
After the final
step to prepare for or consider a possible
Itís best to be specific about what we want and, unless the
information is immediately available, to put the request in
Remember, the information must bear some relevance to the
actual or potential grievance. The union is not allowed to
use requests merely to conduct a "fishing expedition"
through company records. Nevertheless all sorts of company
documents data and factual information are fair game. There
have even been cases where the boss has "thrown in the
towel" on a grievance rather than go to the trouble of
digging up the information requested.
Examples of Information the Union May Request
Health and safety studies
Job assignment records
safety data sheets
Names of witnesses
"Notes to file"
(i.e. database source)
Reports and studies
Security Guard records
Time study records