Q. We have a lot of trouble with our employees’ union in terms of processing grievances. The form the union uses does not provide enough information for my HR office to determine if the grievance has merit or not. We would like the union to identify the contract provision that it believes has been violated, along with sufficient facts to understand the issue. Any thoughts?
A. My recommendation is that you schedule a meeting with your plant committee and see if you can agree on a new form to use when submitting grievances.
If an international union representative services your plant, you may want to discuss this with him or her in advance and try to get buy in. You may ask the international rep to find out whether other plants use grievance forms you could review with an eye toward adapting them to improve your processes. It is always better if you can get the union’s buy-in on the changes that you are seeking.
Sometimes, local committees don’t want to change anything. After all, change is hard, and they may be concerned that you are trying to pull the wool over their eyes.
If the cooperative approach doesn’t work, try returning grievances to the union with a comment such as: “This grievance is being denied and returned to the union without any further answer for the reason that the nature of the contract violation has not been specified. If you believe that there has been a contract violation, please identify the Article(s) and Section(s) of the contract violated or involved and resubmit the grievance. Please include all relevant facts.”
Another approach is to meet with the union and ask them for the specifics at the meeting. Follow the meeting with a memo stating the basis of the grievance to the extent revealed in the meeting. State in the memo that if there are any other contract provisions involved, the union must notify the company. If the union does not identify any contract provisions in the meeting, deny the grievance on the grounds of “no contract violation identified.”
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