Relief valve to vent frustrations

When it comes to grievances, settling the ‘losers’ and litigating the ‘winners’ should give an employer credibility and lead to reduced conflict
By Timothy Liznick
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 10/18/2010

Peace is not the absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means,” according to Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the United States. Through the careful, thorough and rigorous application of the grievance procedure, management can minimize the number of grievances that ultimately reach arbitration. This improves the odds of successful arbitration and the overall climate of labour relations, thus reducing conflict and increasing peace.

In relations between unions and employers, the grievance procedure is the process by which grievances are filed, discussed and carried to arbitration. In turn, arbitration is the mechanism by which conflict is peacefully handled during the life of a collective agreement.

The grievance procedure serves several purposes management should keep in mind. It provides a relief valve for the parties to vent their frustrations, clearing the air and improving the climate of a workplace. It is a process — akin to pleadings and discovery in civil claims — by which the parties gain understanding of the scope of the dispute and discover the case they will have to meet at arbitration. It also gives the parties a chance to explore the possible resolution of a dispute and arrive at a mutually acceptable settlement, avoiding the cost and disruption of arbitration.