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The step procedure.

Your contract will spell out the terms of the grievance procedure your union has negotiated.

Grievance procedures escalate in "steps" (from early discussions with low-level supervisors all the way up to full-fledged arbitrations), with specific time limits assigned to each step. You must try to meet the requirements of each step within the specified time limits. If you fail to do so, without proper cause, you could lose the grievance on a technicality.

Typically, the progression goes something like this:

  • STEP 1 Steward meets with low-level supervisor.
  • STEP 2 If no solution, steward meets with higher management.
  • STEP 3 If no solution, there may be another meeting as in Step 2, or perhaps a grievance "panel," or else the whole thing may go to:
  • ARBITRATION Where nobody wants to be, but the problem will get settled here by a neutral third party.

To make sure you'll never lose a grievance because you let the time limits run out, we're providing you with this little chart. You should know exactly when the clock starts ticking. Now, step over to your contract and fill out this table right now, before you forget.

STEP 1Must file within ___ days from day problem occurred.Must respond within ___ days.
STEP 2Must appeal to Step 2 within ___ days after employer reply to Step 1.Must respond within ___ days.
STEP 3Must appeal to Step 3 within ___ days after management reply to Step 2.Must respond within ___ days.
ARBITRATIONMust appeal to arbitration within ___ days after management reply to Step 3.

The decision to go to arbitration will not be made lightly. It will depend on such things as importance of the issue (problem), severity of the case, cost, and chances of winning. Your investigation, notes, and reports will become really important when such decisions have to be made.