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  5. Tips For Keeping Notes And Documentation
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  3. Local Union Presidents and VP's
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  5. Tips For Keeping Notes And Documentation
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Build a well-documented file from the start. If our files are complete it’s a good indication that we are representing our members thoroughly. A complete file will help us determine how to proceed with a case, and if it does end up going to arbitration, a complete file will go a long way to helping us win a case.

Take detailed notes during all interviews. Notes help you remember important facts, compare conflicting information or corroborate similar accounts. They will be important for other representatives who will later be working with the file. Therefore, it’s important that others be able to read your writing!

Be aware that notes with those other than the grievor can be subpoenaed by the employer. Keep your commentary to a minimum.

Writing down what people say tells them that you take your responsibilities seriously. It also encourages them to be factually precise when you ask them to repeat things, so you can record it accurately (or do so using direct quotes). Slowing them down so you can keep up means that they have more time to think about what they’re saying. It may give you more facts and less opinion.

When in doubt about the usefulness of information, write it down anyway. You likely won’t need everything you’ve recorded but it’s better to take it down at the time, rather than to have to go back later when memories might have faded.

At the end of interviews, go over your notes with the interviewee to make sure your notes are accurate. Sign and date your notes, noting that the interviewee verified their accuracy. Ask them person to sign and date them as well. Make sure they know that you are asking them to sign the notes not because you doubt them, but because it makes them more reliable if you end up at arbitration.

Organize the file. The better organized the information, the more useful it will be. Find a system that works for you and develop some logic to the file so it is useful for other representatives at subsequent levels of the grievance procedure. Usually, a summary of the facts and arranging and listing the documents in chronological order (by date) are key to a well-organized file.

Keep to specified time limits for filing of grievances and appeals. See that the employer replies within the time limits. If they do not answer within the time limits, go forward to the next step, noting on the grievance that the employer missed the limits.

Keep the member informed at all stages as to the progress of his or her grievance.

See that there is a written reply for every written grievance. Sometimes the employer will try to avoid giving a written answer. Insist they do.

Keep the union fact sheet or investigation file separate from the grievance form. The fact sheet gives details of the member’s past record, like warning notices and attendance. It should also include names and addresses of witnesses. The employer should only receive the official grievance form.

A file of grievances and replies should be maintained in the union office. It provides information absolutely necessary for arbitration proceedings and a source of information for the bargaining committee about what contract clauses need to be rewritten and how.

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