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Unions and the Grievance Procedure

Once unions are recognized as the representative of the workers in accordance with LABOUR RELATION ACT, 1999 Part VI and have successfully negotiated a collective bargaining agreement which improve on those rights, they then have the responsibility to enforce the terms of that agreement.

Over time, unions and employers have agreed in the contract to use a grievance procedure to settle disputes while the contract is in effect. Normally, this procedure involves several steps and ends in binding arbitration if the two sides are unable to resolve the problem at any of the steps in the grievance procedure.


Any complaint, disagreement or dispute concerning the interpretation, application or alleged breach of any part of this Agreement or applied conditions of employment.

A ‘grievance’ is when an individual is unable to agree or accept a course of action or circumstance which affects him or her personally and which may also impact upon his or her terms and conditions of employment.


Speak to your Line Manager in the first instance or Human Resources if you prefer. It is important that an opportunity is given to solve the problem without any formal action and it is often the case that simple misunderstandings occur that can be addressed by you meeting with a colleague, a Manager or others.
If you have tried this route and the issue has not been resolved, you will need to follow the guidelines below.

Step 1 – raising the grievance
  • The employee should set out their grievance verbally or in writing to the Steward
  • The employee must state in full the grounds of his/her grievance and provide if possible any evidence relating to such dissatisfaction.

The steward, as representative of the union, plays an important role in the grievance procedure. Stewards are the representatives of workers in grievances and in grievance meetings with the Company. Stewards also investigate grievances to collect the information necessary for the Union to prepare its case. In addition, stewards are entitled to be present when management conducts investigatory interviews of workers.

In investigating grievances, it is important to ask some key questions:

  • Who is involved in the grievance?
  • What happened?
  • When did the grievance occur?
  • Where did the events take place?
  • Why did the grievance happen?
  • How did the grievance occur?
  • Were there witnesses?

In conducting a thorough investigation, the steward will interview all witnesses, request all relevant information from management in regard to the case, review the contract and the Law to see what violations occurred as well as look to see if a past practice was violated.
Additionally, it is crucial that the Steward document the investigation, especially interviews with witnesses, because if a case goes to an arbitrator, the arbitrator will make his or her decision based on the evidence that was uncovered.

Step 2- the hearing

  • Management will invite the employee to a hearing which will take place at a reasonable time.
  • The meeting will be chaired by Management
  • As far as possible, the employee’s grievance will be treated confidentially. However, this may not always be possible and others may need to be informed of the grievance when an investigation is carried out.
  • The employee must make all reasonable efforts to attend the meeting.
  • The purpose of the hearing is to consider the employee’s grievance and any supporting documentation/evidence before a decision is reached. However, it may be necessary for investigations to be carried out or for advice to be obtained before a decision can be made.

The employee must make all reasonable efforts to attend grievance meetings. In the event that the employee or his/her steward cannot attend a meeting, the Steward must contact Management and suggest a reasonable alternative date which in must be within 5 working days of the original date of the meeting.

When a steward is representing an aggrieved worker, he/she need to go into a meeting prepared to provide the best arguments for the case.
That means that he/she should have done a preliminary investigation, understand what facts support your argument, anticipate what arguments management will make, and understand what it will take for you to settle the grievance. As the union steward, he/she have the right to speak for the aggrieved worker and should exercise that right.
In presenting a grievance, you should remember that while you are seeking to resolve the problem, your primary responsibility is to represent the aggrieved worker.
Present the facts and circumstances that led to the grievance, listen to management’s response to see if there is any room to settle, and if not, end the meeting. You are under no obligation to agree with management at this meeting.
If you cannot resolve the grievance at this step, take the necessary action to move the grievance to the next step.

Step 3 – the appeal

  • If the employee and or steward is dissatisfied with the managers decision, the steward should inform the Head of HR of his/her wish to appeal.
  • The grievance should be reported to the Grievance Department (GTAWU) where an officer will pursue the matter further. N.B. It is a good habit to consult with the Union Secretariat at the first instant a grievance is reported and throughout the entire process.

The Right to Information

In processing grievances, the employer is obligated to provide the union with information that the union needs in order to process grievances.
As a steward, you may request information from the company:
  • When you are investigating a grievance
  • When you are preparing for a grievance meeting
  • When preparing for a grievance
The type of information that the company must provide is broad. It must provide documents, data, and factual information that you request. However, you are not permitted to be on a "fishing expedition". Rather you must make requests for specific types of information.

The types of company records that may be necessary includes but not limited to:
  • accident records
  • attendance records
  • disciplinary records
  • company memos
  • evaluations
  • correspondence
  • insurance policies
  • job descriptions
  • job assignments
  • performance reviews
  • personnel files
  • videotapes
Requests for information can be made orally.
However, it is far better if they are made in writing. Be as specific as possible in identifying the documents or the data that you are requesting.