Strategic Grievance Handling
Developing Techniques and Processes to Manage Grievances Efficiently
The number of outstanding grievances is one of the most telling indicators of the state of labour relations in a unionized environment. Considering legal costs and reduced productivity, it is also a very expensive indicator for both employers and unions. Like taxes, grievances are impossible to avoid. But strategic practitioners can reduce their frequency. There are measures you can take before grievances are launched. There are measures you can take during the grievance procedure, and during mediation and arbitration process to lessen the impact on employees, the union, and the organization. That’s where this program comes in.
Strategic grievance handling is a thoughtful approach to labour relations. It involves identifying workplace-wide issues and problems, then analyzing the way in which individual grievance management can address those issues. A long-term goal can then be developed for solving the systemic issues. You will come away from this program with the big-picture perspective, as well as the skills that you can use back at work to confidently handle all steps in the grievance process.
a) The Rules of the Road
Much of the grievance process is grounded in law, so that's where we start. In no time, you'll have an understanding of the basic legal foundation.
- What is a grievance?
- How is it linked to collective bargaining?
- What are the typical boundaries and scope of a grievance?
- Which sorts of outcomes are predictable?
- When can a grievance be reviewed?
b) Conflict Escalation and Containment
There's both art and science to recognizing, assessing, and preventing conflict from escalating into a formal grievance. Learn to identify the stages in conflict escalation and acquire the techniques for controlling conflict. Come away with a practical five-stage conflict escalation model with immediate practical benefit for reducing workplace "temperature." Best of all, test your understanding of this tool in a scripted scenario and, in a safe workshop setting, discuss methods of intervention. And working in a small group, compare your judgment in real-life cases against actual decisions made by arbitrators.
c) Case Studies: Learning From Disasters
From a Safe Workplace Advocate at a hospital, hear the story about how an "ordinary" grievance process contributed to a workplace tragedy. From a Union Counsel, learn how the merger of two Canadian airlines generated hundreds of grievances relating to seniority, layoffs, pensions, and benefits.
- What creative solutions were developed to work through these situations?
- What was learned?
- How can each of us translate these lessons into practical applications in our own workplaces?
d) How to be a Strong Advocate
The basis of effective grievance handling are thorough preparation and solid advocacy, communication, and negotiating skills. In this session, you learn:
- How to conduct a preliminary complaint investigation
- How to prepare for grievance meetings
- How to apply strategic analysis of grievances for early resolution
- How to negotiate at grievance meetings
Join the session leader in a discussion on key issues and questions that inevitably arise.
- What information should or should not be revealed at early stages?
- What should the grieving party or supervisor say and do in grievance meetings?
- Which types of negotiating strategies can be employed during grievance meetings?
- What is the best way to communicate for maximum impact?
e) Following the Mediation and Arbitration Routes
Grievance mediation and arbitration each demand a specific skill-set and understanding. Learn — and practice — the difference between the two in role plays. You are asked to take on a role and, guided by confidential information, play out a scenario that will be resolved through the mediation process. Then, the exact same scenario is played out through an arbitration process. Get on-the-spot coaching along the way.
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of grievance mediation and arbitration?
- When would you choose either process?
- When would you make a process shift, and move from one process to the other?
- How should you make that shift?
f) Feeding the Collective Agreement
Strategic grievance handling inevitably translates into strategic labour relations. In this closing session, we make the connection to the allimportant bargaining relationship and review the processes that nurture that relationship.
- What are the best practices in tracking grievances, planning the negotiating agenda, and achieving consensus in your grievance and bargaining committees?
- Which processes work best in the private and public sectors?
- What are the economic realities of grievance mediation or arbitration?
By the end of this four-day program, you will be better positioned to:
- Diagnose when and how conflict escalates
- Understand the context and purpose of a grievance
- Consider your options when a grievance is filed
- Prepare for and take control of the grievance meeting
- Deploy your skills most effectively during the grievance process
- Strategically choose mediation or arbitration as an option for resolution
- Conduct a grievance analysis before a round of collective bargaining
Organizational and Union Benefits
- Enhanced in-house capacity to handle grievances
- Reduced time and legal costs spent on arbitration
- Poised and well-grounded responses to changing labour laws and legal issues
- Well-grounded positions going into collective bargaining
- Five-Stage Conflict Escalation Model
- Grievance Preparation Checklist
Supervisors and managers who oversee unionized staff as well as union officials, shop stewards, and others who represent workers.
Elaine Newman, BA, LL.B., LL.M., was called to the bar in Ontario in 1979.
Elaine is a very experienced full-time arbitrator and mediator, specializing in labour relations, employment, and human rights matters. She is a teacher, an author, and frequent speaker on labour, employment and human rights issues.
Elaine served as Associate Director of the LL.M. program in Labour Relations and Employment Law at Osgoode Hall Law School 2002 to 2008.
She was lead instructor for the Advanced Dispute Resolution Course at Atkinson Faculty, York University for ten years, where she taught the Ethics of Mediation course, and the Advanced Practicum course. She is a frequent guest speaker at Queen’s University...
Read the full bio for Elaine Newman