The way you write up a grievance can determine whether a case is won or lost.
A well-written grievance will be brief and to the point. It contains only the basic facts, a statement of cause and a claim for redress. Arguments are not written into the grievance (they should be made verbally at the first meeting, and can also be made at other meetings).
Check your collective agreement to determine if it includes specifications on writing up grievances (for example, it may specify that the article which has been violated must be named).
A well-written grievance contains information usually answered by carefully filling in the local union’s official grievance form.
The 6 Ws
- Who is involved? Name or names, seniority, employee number(s) and classification(s) of the grievor(s).
- What happened? What is the grievance about?
- When did it happen? Dates, time of day, shift. In cases of pay shortage and claims for retroactive pay, the exact dates and times. If there is a continuing violation, put this down on paper.
- Where did it happen? Department or workstation.
- Why is this a grievance? What happened? Write a brief and general statement about what the employer did that was wrong. State also that this is a violation of the collective agreement. Name the article or articles of the collective agreement that you think were violated if the collective agreement says you must name the articles violated on the grievance form. Always add the words “and all other related articles.”
- Want: What settlement is requested? Always ask for “full redress” or “to be made whole”.
Drafting the grievance
Why is there so little information contained about the actual case on the grievance form?
The grievance form should be short and to the point – you want to save your arguments for the actual grievance meeting. Chances are the grievance and issues related to it will expand as you conduct your investigation.
The grievance is a document which will be called into evidence should the case go to arbitration. If a grievance is not written correctly it can hurt the union’s ability to represent the worker.
Keep it simple and concise. An example of a grievance statement is “I grieve the employer violated paragraph___ , and all related articles of the collective agreement”.
Why do we add “and all related articles of the collective agreement”?
When the collective agreement is at issue, identify the article as a whole, and after specifying a particular provision, include a phrase such as “and all other relevant articles…”.
This provides greater flexibility to introduce other arguments should additional information become known at a later time.
Since even experienced representatives can too easily make a mistake naming the correct articles violated, we add the words “and all other related articles”. This can be a crucial issue at arbitration. When the collective agreement says the correct articles must be named on the written grievance, naming the wrong articles and not including the words “and all other related articles” can take away the arbitrator’s authority to rule on the grievance.
Why is the demand for redress simply stated – “to be made whole”? why don’t we say exactly what we want?
For redress we keep it simple and concise as well. Statements such as “To be made whole” or “To be made whole with full redress” ensures that our call for corrective action provides the space for an arbitrator to rule completely on all elements of the case.
Stating only what we are looking for can limit the outcome. If the grievance takes 6 months to resolve, what would make a member whole at that point might be different than what you could anticipate at the time of writing the grievance. The general words “to be made whole” protect the authority of the arbitrator to make an award and the right of the union to claim further specific redress at another stage if necessary.
Why don’t we include evidence or arguments?
Save these for when you meet with management.
Why does each grievance get assigned a number?
A grievance log is the union’s record of grievances filed and where they are in the grievance process. It is helpful both in keeping track of grievances and providing a record of problems with the employer. Having this record is particularly helpful in preparing for bargaining.