Strategic Grievance Handling | Queen's University IRC

Queen's University IRC

Queen's University

Strategic Grievance Handling

ALR 401
4 Credits

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.

Tour of the Program

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?

Learning Outcomes

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

Takeaway Tools

  • Five-Stage Conflict Escalation Model
  • Grievance Preparation Checklist

Who Should Attend

Supervisors and managers who oversee unionized staff as well as union officials, shop stewards, and others who represent workers.

Facilitators and Speakers

Lead Facilitator(s)

Mercedes Watson

Mercedes Watson is a senior partner with a boutique-consulting firm and a portion of her consulting practice focuses on labour relations issues. She is a regular facilitator at Queen’s IRC where she provides her expertise to core courses (Negotiation Skills, Strategic Grievance Handling and Managing Unionized Environments) and travels throughout Canada and to Trinidad (Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business) on behalf of Queen’s IRC to deliver customized training to organizations and their union and/or management groups.

Mercedes has consulted, facilitated, mediated and led negotiations with numerous bargaining units across a variety of sectors including cultural, health care, education...

Read the full bio for Mercedes Watson

Guest Speaker(s)

Carol De Rosie

Carol De Rosie is a Registered Nurse who spent most of her adult life in Toronto working at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre where she worked in Oncology. As an active staff member, Carol sat on numerous hospital committees through the years including the Diversity, Ethics, Fiscal Advisory, and Nursing Advisory.

Carol held positions with the Ontario Nurses Association, Local 80 as: Grievance Officer, First Vice President, and for 10 years, full time President. During those years she led complicated negotiations during hospital restructuring, and managed grievances, arbitrations, mediation, professional practice, contract negotiations, return to work, and accommodation issues for her members.

In 2003,...

Read the full bio for Carol De Rosie

Dawn McDermott

Dawn McDermott, Senior Advisor of Dispute Resolution and Support for Wilfrid Laurier University, has a 25-year history of working with people and organizations in crisis, implementing community programs and developing institutional supports for people experiencing marginalization, victimization, harassment and discrimination.

During her tenure as the Executive Director of Windsor and Essex County, Dawn was a member of the Sexual Assault Advisory Committee, and a team member appointed to conduct the Domestic Violence Safety audit of the Windsor police service. She co-created and implemented a group treatment program for female political torture survivors. She initiated the creation of a multicultural liaison...

Read the full bio for Dawn McDermott

John McConchie

John McConchie is a labour arbitrator, mediator, and harassment complaints investigator who also advises clients in labour arbitration and human rights matters. 

John brings over 25 years of experience and a special interest in preventative law to the task of helping clients both solve legal problems and prevent them from arising or recurring. To this end, he works with his partner, Ricki Lambeck McConchie, in providing client-targeted seminars, workshops and online programs on popular workplace subjects.

John was legal assistant to the Chair of the Labour Relations Board of BC from 1980 to 1981, an adjunct professor of law at the University of BC from 1992 to 1996, and adjudicator for the Employment...

Read the full bio for John McConchie

*The roster of speakers is subject to change.

Venues and Accommodations

Mar 26-29, 2019 - Toronto

The program venue has not been finalized. Queen's IRC programs are usually held at a hotel. Please check back at a later date or contact Queen's IRC at 1-888-858-7838 for additional information.

Dec 3-6, 2019 - Toronto

The program venue has not been finalized. Queen's IRC programs are usually held at a hotel. Please check back at a later date or contact Queen's IRC at 1-888-858-7838 for additional information.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I register for a program?

You can register online, call us toll-free at 1-888-858-7838, or email us at Once you register, we will send you a confirmation by email. Information about the program location, check-in time, and the agenda will follow.

How do I pay for the program?

If you are registering online, you may pay by Visa or MasterCard. You may also choose to be invoiced first, and pay by cheque (payable to Queen's IRC) or credit card. You may also wish to call us with your credit card number to make the payment.

If your organization is tax exempt, we will require a copy of your tax exemption certificate.

Do you offer discounts?

Yes. We offer an Early-Bird discount. If you register 60 days before the start of a program, you will save $300 on the tuition of four- and five-day programs, and $150 on two- and three-day programs.

If you register three people from the same organization in the same program at the same time, you will receive a 10% discount on program fees. If you register five or more people in the same program at the same time, you will receive a 20% discount.

If you know you will be pursuing a Queen's Certificate and would like to remit tuition in one payment before your first program, we offer a special fee with a considerable saving. Contact us at for more information.

Please note that only one discount may be applied.

What is included in the registration fee?

Program fees include tuition, workbook materials, lunches, and some dinners. You are responsible for transportation, accommodation, and some meals.

Once I enroll in a program, may I cancel without penalty?

Substitutions are permitted with no penalty 8 days or more from the program start date.
Substitutions 7 days or less before the program start date will be subject to a $500 charge.
Transfers and cancellations are permitted with no penalty up to 15 days prior to the program start date.
Transfers and cancellations 14 days or less from the program start date will be subject to a 100% charge of the program fee.

Where does the program take place?

Our programs typically take place at a hotel. This information can be found in the tab above, called Venue and Accommodations.

I would like to make my travel plans.  What are the start and end times for the program?

Strategic Grievance Handling starts at 8:30 a.m. on the first day. (Registration runs from 8:00 - 8:30 a.m.)

The program finishes at 3 p.m. on the last day.

If I am working towards a Queen's IRC Certificate, which course should I take first?

You may take the programs in any order that reflects your learning needs at the time. Our certificates feature a core program or programs that introduce you to what we consider the core competencies of the field. The remaining programs offer a deeper exploration of each area. For this reason, we find that participants in the certificate stream benefit most by taking the foundational program first.

My level of expertise is above the foundational program for the certificate I am working on. Do I still need to take that program to earn a certificate?

Queen's IRC offers participants maximum flexibility to customize their individual training needs. Upon request, participants with advanced expertise may skip the foundational program, and choose another program from our entire program lineup, for credit towards a certificate. Participants must earn 12 credits to earn a certificate.

How long do I have to complete a certificate?

We attach no timeline for achieving your certificate. Once you have earned a credit, you have earned the credit. We do recommend, however, that participants complete their certificate within one to six years. Most people earn their certificates within three years.

What if I want to take one of your programs but do not want to pursue a certificate?

That's fine. All of our programs may be taken individually, and you can mix and match the courses in labour relations, human resources and organization development, depending on your learning needs. At the conclusion of each program, you are given a certificate of completion.

I have taken a custom program with the IRC. Will this count towards a certificate?

Yes. Participants who take an IRC custom program may also use their training days as credits towards a certificate.

If I have other questions, who may I speak with personally?

For a program registration query, please feel free to call us at 1-888-858-7838 or 613-533-6628. To reach the Director and staff members, consult our online directory. To reach one of our facilitators, please contact Stephanie Noel at 613-533-6000 ext. 77088 or