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In 2003, the collective agreement between the Yukon government and the PSAC revised the way a grievance – a complaint by an employee – is handled. The grievance procedure is less formal now, less structured, and encourages a problem-solving approach to employee complaints. There are no written submissions or decisions at the first two levels of the process. Only the third and final step produces a written decision. Instead of elevating grievances up to the first level of management, the idea was to push problem-solving down to the lowest decision-making level. It is not uncommon for bargaining unit personnel to be the only ones involved in the first two levels of the grievance procedure. For this reason, precedents cannot be set at the first or second level, and this leads to a more informal way of resolving problems that arise at the work site.
Both the union and the employer have grievance administrators who “track” the grievance through the system at each level, and keeps records. This tracking includes recording critical dates and the result of the process.
By definition, a grievance is a complaint in writing. It can be about how the employer is using the collective agreement. An employee may also disagree with the employer about what the agreement means, and file a grievance about that. As well, a grievance can be used if the employee thinks that the terms and conditions of their job have changed unfairly, or are not being honoured.
An Issue Presentation/Grievance Form is available from the shop steward, the YEU office or the employer. While a grievance will be accepted if it is not submitted on this form, use of the form will speed the process and ensure all requirements are met.
A grievance is not a tool for dealing with suspensions, dismissals, or competition appeals. Nor should this particular process be used to file harassment or discrimination grievances. All these issues are properly addressed through separate procedures outlined under the collective agreement (harassment grievances or competition appeals), the Public Service Act or Education Labour Relations Act (suspensions and dismissals) or referrals to adjudication (Public Service Labour Relations Act and Education Labour Relations Act).
Grievances are not the right tool for day-to-day discussions and the occasional disagreements that can occur between employees and their supervisors. In fact, one of the basic ideas behind the new procedure is problem solving, something that can most often be achieved by fair and open discussion in the workplace.
The grievance procedure is the agreed way a complaint can be heard. It is nothing more than a standardized set of steps to follow when someone has a complaint or a problem.
There are two basic principles behind most grievance procedures.
The first principle is the idea of progressive levels or steps through which a complaint can pass. Under the grievance procedure, attempts to resolve a grievance begin with a first step where a complaint can be heard quickly and informally by the people immediately involved.
Many grievances can be resolved quickly by sharing information, correcting a misunderstanding, or by simply agreeing to a solution. In this case the grievance procedure can save time, money, and maybe most importantly, the relationship between the parties. Having the issue handled by those immediately involved has an added benefit – the employee and the supervisor know more about the problem at hand than do people at higher levels. If the first problem-solving level fails, the issue can be advanced to successively higher levels.
The second principle is to ensure that another procedure – adjudication by an independent third party – is normally available if the complaint can’t be resolved at any of the internal grievance levels. A grievance can be referred to adjudication only with the consent of the bargaining agent.
The Collective Agreement allows for three kinds of grievances.
1. Individual grievances
2. Group grievances
3. Policy grievances
A unionized employee of the Yukon government has the right to submit an “individual grievance” – one that is about that employee’s own situation. These grievances are filed to the employee’s supervisor.
A “group grievance” can be filed when more than one employee has been affected in the same way by a decision of management. All the employees in a group grievance must want a similar solution, or redress. In this case, the names of all employees who are part of the grievance must be attached. One example might be the cancellation of vacation leave for everyone in the group. Group grievances are filed directly to Level 2 (the second level of supervision).
A “policy grievance” involves how the Collective Agreement is interpreted, and matters that affect the union as a whole. These grievances may only be filed by the union (not an individual member), and are filed directly to the Public Service Commissioner.
Refer to your collective agreement for details on how grievances are handled and timelines that pertain to the filing of grievances.
A convenient wallet card that explains the process is available from the shop steward, YEU office, or the Public Service Commission.
When an employee feels that filing a grievance may be the only way to find a resolution to a workplace problem, the shop steward should be approached for advice. The shop steward has copies of Issue Presentation/Grievance Forms and will contact the YEU office for a grievance file number.
This form provides a convenient means of recording the grievance in a simple and self-explanatory format acceptable to both the Union and the employer. It also contains a number needed to keep track of the grievance (this number is obtained form the YEU office) as it moves through the system. Although a written grievance presented by letter is equally valid, both the Union and the employer strongly recommend use of the grievance form.
Level 1 (a meeting between the employee and the supervisor)
Response time – the first level meeting must be held within 20 working days after the supervisor has received notification of the grievance.
At the first level after the grievance has been submitted, the employee meets with the supervisor to try to work out a solution. Employees can ask a shop steward to join in on this meeting. If a Shop Steward is not immediately available, the employee can call the union office to arrange for another representative to attend.
The supervisor may consult with the department Human Resource office.
The best place to solve the problem that caused a grievance is here at the first level. Employees should be prepared to explain the issue clearly, and to offer suggestions about how to fix the problem. The goal is to find a solution quickly, fairly, and without unnecessary delay. Here all the facts are explained and viewpoints shared.
Shop stewards play an important role in this process. They provide on-site union representation, support and procedural guidance. They can also help keep the meeting focused, particularly if tensions or strong feelings interfere with the discussion.
Both the employee and supervisor are expected to try to solve the grievance in a cooperative and straightforward manner. With this in mind, meetings at the first level are very informal. No written records need to be kept. If the grievance can be resolved at this level, the matter ends. More than one meeting can be held if both the employee and supervisor agree.
While this first level meeting is informal, the time frames for the meeting and any referrals to the next level are firm. The first level problem-solving meeting must be held within 20 working days after the employer received the grievance. If a reasonable solution can’t be found, the grievance must be forwarded within 5 working days to management for a second level meeting.
A second problem-solving meeting will be held if the grievance cannot be solved at the first level. In this case, the manager attends for the employer. As before, the employee can be represented by the Shop Steward.
The Level 2 manager is considered the first non-bargaining person (either manager or confidential exclusion) above the Level 1 supervisor. The Manager may consult, if necessary, with the departmental Human Resource office.
Second level meetings are also informal. The idea is to cooperate and find a way to resolve the problem. While no formal written records are kept, it is wise to write down the terms of any agreement reached, so everyone understands and no one will forget.
If no agreement is reached, both parties should write down the facts presented so that they will be available at the final grievance level.
Unless both the employee and manager agree otherwise, the meeting at Level Two must be held within 10 working days after the grievance has been referred from Level One. If the matter is not successfully resolved, it must be referred to Level Three within 5 working days.
Final Level (a meeting between the employee and the deputy minister)
A third and final meeting may be needed, this time between the employee and the deputy minister. Once again the employee can have a designated union representative attend. Advice on representation is available from the Yukon Employees’ Union office.
The deputy may consult with the departmental Human Resource office or the Staff Relations Branch, Public Service Commission who may be asked to attend the Final Level meeting.
A Final Level meeting must be held no more than 10 days after the grievance was referred from Level Two. Meetings at this level are more formal, and a written record will be maintained.
In this case, the deputy will make the decision on the grievance.
This decision will be provided in writing, with the reasons outlined. This written decision and explanation is required within 10 days. If the employee is not satisfied with the deputy minister’s decision, the union can be requested by the employee to refer the matter to adjudication. There are strict timelines involved with such referrals, so this request should be made immediately upon receiving the decision and explanation.