Normally it is workers and lower level employees who come out with the above and has to be addressed by the management. It usually comes as a collective bargaining. After sorting out the matters the management along with the leaders of workers sign an agreement paper.
Finalising a labour agreement is not the last step in group bargaining. No labour contract can cover all conditions and emergencies and answer all questions. For example suppose the contract says you can only dismiss or remove an employee for reasons justified for the acts he has committed. You thereafter remove someone for speaking back to you loudly and in disobeying terms. You have to judge whether it is within your rights to remove or suspend this person. The employee may be speaking back to you just at the spur of the moment.
The labour contract’s grievance procedure usually handles problems like these. The grievance procedure provides an orderly system whereby both employer and union determine whether some action is not within the frame work of the contract. It is the agreement for administering the contract on a day to day basis. The grievance process allows both parties to understand and give meaning to all clauses, and makes the contract into a working mechanism. This involves understanding with clarity only; it usually does not require settling new terms or altering existing ones.
Sources of Grievances
From a practical point of view, it is probably easier to list those items that do not cause grievances than to list the ones that do. Employees may use just about any factor involving wages, hours, or conditions of employment as the basis of grievance.
However, certain grievances are more serious because they are usually more difficult to settle. Discipline cases and seniority problems including promotions, transfers, and layoffs would top this list. Others would include grievances growing out of job evaluations and work assignments, overtime, vacations, incentive plans and holidays.
- Absenteeism: An employer fired an employee for excessive absences. The employee filed a grievance stating that there had been no previous warnings or discipline related to excessive absences.
- Insubordination: An employee on two occasions refused to obey a supervisor’s order to meet with him, unless a union representative was present at the meeting. As a result, the employee was removed and thereafter he filed a grievance questioning his removal.
- Over time: The employer stopped Sunday overtime work after a department was bifurcated. Employees affected filed a grievance protesting loss of the overtime work.
- Plant rules: The plant had introduced a new rule which asked employees to stop from eating or drinking during unscheduled breaks. The employees filed a grievance claiming the rule was a sudden introduction.
A grievance is often a sign of an underlying problem. Sometimes relationships between supervisors and subordinates are to blame. This is often the cause of grievances over fair treatment for instance. Organizational factors such as jobs done on automatic machines, unclear job descriptions that cause employees think about job security also cause grievances.
Union initiatives is another reason, the union may ask grievances from workers to point out examples of poor supervision. Problem employees are yet another reason for grievances. These are individuals who by their nature are negative, so not satisfied with anything and have a tendency to complain.
The Grievance Procedure
Most collective bargaining contracts contain a specific grievance procedure. It lists the various steps in the procedure, time limits, associated with each step and specific rules such as all charges of contract being not followed must be reduced to writing. Every labour agreement signed today contains a grievance procedure clause.
Union grievance procedures differ from firm to firm. Some contain simple, two step procedures. Here the grievant union representative and company representative meet to discuss the grievance. If they don’t find a satisfactory solution, the grievance is brought before an independent third party arbitrator who hears the case writes it up, and makes a decision.
At the other extreme the grievance procedures may contain six or more steps. The first step might be for the grievant and workshop supervisor representative to meet informally with the grieving’s supervisor to try to find a solution. If they don’t find one, the employee files a formal grievance, and there’s a meeting with the employee, shop steward and the supervisor’s boss. The next steps involve the grievant and union representatives meeting with higher level managers. Finally, if top management and the union can’t reach agreement the grievance may go to arbitration.
In India all the points of grievances are covered in workers management agreement which many firms do once in 3 years. Any smaller grievances coming up in between is sorted out between reps of management and Union.