Canada Employment and Immigration Union -

Grievance basics

As a steward, you will be approached by members on a variety of topics. Grievances will be among the most common subjects raised and, in many instances, a conversation with the member will provide all the information needed. Where it does not, or where the member is new to the union, the following questions and answers may be helpful.

Questions and answers

Q: In very simple terms, what is a grievance?

A: A grievance is a written complaint against an action (or lack of action) by the employer. It allows for discussion between union and management on the issue that concerns you. It also requires management to give a written response at each level of the grievance process.

Q: Can all problems in the workplace be taken up in a grievance?

A: No. Some issues, such as staffing, are usually pursued through actions like investigations and complaints. Others may be handled more informally by stewards and local officers through discussions with local management.

Q: How do I know if my problem should be dealt with through a grievance?

A: You will probably need some help to decide this. Help is available through your steward or local officer as well as through a CEIU staff representative.

Q: How do I write the grievance – I really don’t know much about this process?

A: Your steward or local officer will help with this and a CEIU staff representative may also be consulted.

Q: How long do I have to file a grievance?

A: You have 25 days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays, from the event that gave rise to the problem to submit your grievance. You should review the grievance procedure in the collective agreement to ensure you meet the various requirements for the timely processing of your case.

Q: Will the CEIU represent me if I file a grievance?

A: Yes, CEIU represents its members who file grievances. However, if a member wishes to file a grievance against another member, special measures will have to be taken. In such cases, you should first discuss the matter with a local union representative or union staff representative.

Q: How are grievances processed?

A: In the departments (CIC, HRSD, Service Canada and the IRB) where the CEIU represents members, the grievance usually has three steps or levels.

The first level, also known as the local level, will involve you and your local union representative and local management. The grievance procedure starts at the local level so that those closest to the issue in dispute will have the first chance to reach a settlement. If the discussions at this level do not result in a satisfactory settlement for you, the case can be raised, or “transmitted” to the next level in the grievance procedure.

At the second level of the procedure you will, as a rule, be represented by a CEIU staff representative who will meet with the regional director-general concerned.

If the result is not satisfactory, you can transmit the grievance to the third level. At this level, a CEIU staff representative will present your case to a representative of the deputy minister.

Q: What happens if management’s answer at the third level of the procedure is unsatisfactory?

A: That depends on the type of grievance that is involved.

Q: What are the different types of grievances then?

A: Here is a quick overview: There are grievances that deal with violations of the union contract, or collective agreement. These grievances can ultimately be referred to an independent third party (an adjudicator) for a binding decision if no resolution is reached in the grievance procedure. Similarly, grievances dealing with discipline (suspension, financial penalty or discharge) can be referred to a third party.

There are also grievances that focus on unjust treatment or action (or lack of action) by the employer. These grievances cannot be put before an independent third party. Classification grievances, as well, cannot be referred to a third party for review.

Q: Where can I learn more about grievances?

A: Your collective agreement is a good start. Most CEIU members are covered by the Program and Administration Services agreement. The agreement sets out your pay rates, entitlements and protections as well as the grievance process itself. If you don’t have a printed copy, you can find a copy here. Your local officers, stewards and members will also be able to tell you more how the grievance procedure operates. They can, in turn, speak with a CEIU staff representative if more information is required. Union training courses are offered on the collective agreement and related issues and you are welcome to participate if you want to learn more. Visit our training section for more information.

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