What is a grievance?

A grievance is a complaint about something the employer did or did not do:

  • A violation of the collective agreement.
  • A violation of federal or provincial employment related laws.
  • When the employer changes the way they apply collective agreement language. This is an estoppel grievance and can be a bit more complicated.

Your collective agreement describes how the union and the employer have agreed to handle grievances. Make sure you follow the procedure so that the employer can’t defeat the grievance on a technicality.

Types of grievances 

Individual grievance: The union files a grievance on behalf of an individual employee. Examples: a worker gets disciplined , or someone does not get a promotion .

Group grievance: The union files a grievance on behalf of a group of members affected in the same way and at the same time by an action the employer has taken. Examples: the employer does not pay a shift premium to a group of members who worked an eligible shift, or the employer does not let a group of members take family leave, even though the collective agreement says they can.

Policy/Union grievance: The union files a grievance because the employer did or did not do something that could have an impact on all workers covered by the collective agreement. This is usually a general (rather than individual) complaint. Examples: the employer is not letting union members know about vacant positions, or the employer is not submitting union dues.

Think you have a grievance?

If you have a question or a concern and think it may be a grievance, talk to your steward. Even if it’s something that might not be a grievable it might be something others are concerned about, and it can be addressed through the collective bargaining process. You steward is there to help, they can take notes, investigate and even get further support from the Chief Steward. If you are concerned about bringing it to your steward look up a steward from another unit that you are ok to talk to and connect with them.

Grievances go through a number of different stages and step and sometimes can even jump a steps, they involve meetings with the employer and specific timelins. Again the detailed process is in our collective agreement.  A few key things to note:

  • If you feel you can, and it’s safe, it’s always good to try to work through the problem with the people involved first. Write notes with times and dates about what you tried, especially if it doesn’t go well. Notes are really helpful if the process continues, your steward will take them too.
  • In the end, the Grievance Committee that makes the decision if a grievance goes to mediation/arbitration, They weigh the pro’s and con’s, the costs, and if there is any chance of winning.
  • Some changes we want to see are not always a grievance, or a part of legislation/laws. But there is always the potential to explore change, the next time we negotiate a collective agreement. Check out a union meeting, talk to other members, get involved, organize, share your opinion and see what happens.

Again if you have any questions connect with your steward.