Strategic Grievance Handling
Developing Techniques and Processes to Strategically Prevent and Manage Grievances
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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, damage to labour-management relationships and reduced productivity, grievances can also be very expensive for both employers and unions. Like taxes, grievances are a part of the unionized workplace but many can be avoided and strategic practitioners can play a role in reducing their frequency. There are measures that can be taken before grievances are launched. There are steps that you can take during the grievance procedure, during mediation and in advance of the 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 or problems, then analyzing the way in which proactive individual grievance management can address those issues. A long-term goal can then be developed for solving the systemic issues.
WHO SHOULD ATTEND
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You will come away from this program with the big-picture perspective, as well as some 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 gain an understanding of the basic legal foundation as well as these topics:
- 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 involved in 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.
c) Case Studies: Learning from Decisions
Working in small groups you’ll compare your judgment using real-life cases against actual decisions made by arbitrators, and utilize these decisions to start developing your own strategic insights. You’ll hear from participants about their workplace issues and work in table groups to re-think approaches to current or pending grievance scenarios
Hear the story about how an “ordinary” grievance process contributed to a workplace tragedy.
- What creative solutions were developed to work through these situations?
- What was learned?
- How has legislation and workplace policies changed?
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 consists of thorough preparation and solid advocacy, communication, and negotiating skills. In this session, you’ll learn:
- How to prepare for grievance meetings
- The benefits of information sharing
- How to apply strategic analysis of grievances for early resolution
- How to negotiate at grievance meetings
Join the session leader in discussions 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 through simulations — 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 both the mediation and arbitration processes. 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 not only the workplace dynamics but to the all-important bargaining relationship and review the processes that nurture these relationships.
- What are the best practices in tracking grievances, and how does your handling of them impact the bargaining process?
- Why do we choose to go to arbitration and how can we improve the process when negotiating collective agreements?
- What are the economic realities of grievance mediation or arbitration?