How to File a Good Grievance

The Vancouver Local receives a large number of grievance investigation forms from members on a weekly basis. All too often, the forms are not fully completed or there are not enough details in the description of what happened. Some forms are missing personal information about the grievor, full names of supervisors, witnesses or other workers involved, supporting documents, etc.

We can do a much better and quicker job processing your grievance, and a better chance of winning your grievance down the road, if you work with your shop steward every time you submit a grievance investigation form.

The Role of the Shop Steward

It is always advisable to talk to your shop steward right away when something happens in the workplace that you think is wrong or unfair. First of all, you elect shop stewards to help resolve problems in the workplace. This includes preparing and investigating grievances. Let them do the job they were elected and trained to do.

Shop stewards have the right under Article 9 of the Collective Agreement to meet with members to prepare grievances and investigate complaints on the employer’s time.

The first thing the shop steward will do is listen to your explanation and determine if your complaint is actually a violation of the Collective Agreement. If it isn’t a valid grievance, they will discuss it with you and explain why it isn’t. They may be able to address the situation with management or give you advice about other ways to resolve the issue.

If it is a valid grievance, the shop steward will help identify all the provisions of the Collective Agreement that apply. They will help you complete the grievance investigation form. They will collect all pertinent documents from you and/or management. They will gather witness statements and any other evidence needed to support your grievance.

The Role of the Grievor

Explain exactly what happened:

Sometimes there is simply not enough detail in the written description of what happened for us to know if the member’s rights were violated. We need to know who was involved, what happened, and where and when it happened. Written statements need to be printed clearly and legibly so we can understand the nature of the grievance. We are not in your section of depot, we did not see what happened or what was said. We need you to explain these things so that the Local Union Office will have evidence for the grievance hearing and possibly the arbitration.

Provide the evidence:

Documentation is usually needed to support your grievance. For example, if you have been disciplined, we need copies of the 24 hour notice, notes from the disciplinary interview, and the letter of discipline. Equal opportunity for overtime bypasses will require things like copies of the equal opportunity list and information about the use of casuals or other additional hours. If you were bullied in the workplace, we need details of all the incidents and names of witnesses. Was it a single instant or persistent?

The Union cannot win your grievance at arbitration without documentation and evidence. It’s a lot easier to gather this information now than months later when we are preparing the case for arbitration.

Act quickly:

The Union has only 25 working days (following the date you first became aware of the situation) to submit a grievance on your behalf. If you act quickly, the shop steward will have enough time to properly investigate your grievance.

If every grievor follows these simple steps, the union will be well prepared to argue your grievance at every level of the grievance procedure, including at arbitration.

In Solidarity,

Pat Bertrand

Grievance Officer