Grievances

What is a grievance?
A grievance is a formal attempt at resolving a dispute between the union and the employer concerning the collective bargaining agreement (contract). The grievance procedure is established in the contract to help both sides contain costs associated with contract disputes (if there were no grievance procedure, contract disputes would be settled in court, which would be enormously expensive).  If you believe you may have a grievance, please email the GEO Grievance Committee immediately at grievance@uic-geo.net.

How do we file a grievance?
A grievance is a written document (often in the form of a letter) stating the complaint, the articles of the contract that the union believes were violated, and the remedy sought. Before the grievance is filed, an attempt to resolve the issue informally should be made between the grievant and his or her supervisor except when this is potentially harmful to the grievant (eg. when the grievance concerns discrimination or harassment).

What are the steps of the UIC GEO grievance process?
Step One: file a grievance with the department head or unit executive officer.
Step Two: if the grievance is not resolved at Step One, the grievance may be filed again with the executive officer (usually a dean) of the college.
Step Three: if the grievance is not resolved at Step Two, the grievance may be filed again with the University’s designee in Human Resources (for UIC GEO in 2013, that person is Marilyn Lablaiks).
Arbitration: if the grievance is not resolved at Step Three, the union may file to take the grievance before an independent arbitrator. The arbitrator’s ruling is final and binding on both parties.

Who has the right to file a grievance?
Anyone covered under the collective bargaining agreement has a right to file a grievance, whether or not they are a “card-signed” member of the union.

A member has a right to use the process for filing a grievance outlined in the collective bargaining agreement to file his/her own grievance without going through the union. If a member chooses to exercise this right, the University is obligated to notify the union that a grievance is underway. This is an incredibly rare and inadvisable practice for members, as the purpose of union representation is to help represent the member’s best interests and rights as employees in the grievance process.

What kind of injustices can be pursued through the grievance process?
The ONLY injustices that can be pursued through the grievance process are violations of the collective bargaining agreement. Nothing else is subject to the grievance procedure (though there may be other venues for seeking justice for those claims).

What kind of remedy can we seek through the grievance procedure?
The purpose of remedies under the grievance procedure is to restore what was lost under the contract. Any other purpose (eg. punishing the University) cannot be pursued through the grievance procedure.

Why are grievances important to the union?
Grievances are how the union protects its contract. In fact, if a contract violation occurs and the union allows it to persist without challenging it under the grievance procedure, the contract violation becomes a “past practice,” which means that the university can continue the practice for the duration of the contract (and possibly beyond!) In other words, if we fail to enforce a provision of the contract even one time, we can lose the right to enforce that provision of the contract in the future. This is why grievances are so vital: they uphold and protect the contract and protect other members of the GEO.

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