Your contract will spell out the terms of the grievance procedure your Union has negotiated.
Grievance procedures escalate in “steps” (from early discussions with low-level supervisors all the way up to full-fledged arbitrations), with specific time limits assigned to each step. You must try to meet the requirements of each step within the specified time limits. If you fail to do so, without proper cause, you could lose the grievance on a technicality.
Typically, the progression goes something like this:
- STEP 1 Steward meets with low-level supervisor.
- STEP 2 If no solution, steward meets with higher management.
- STEP 3 If no solution, there may be another meeting as in Step 2, or perhaps a grievance “panel,” or else the whole thing may go to:
- ARBITRATION Where nobody wants to be, but the problem will get settled here by a neutral third party.
You should know exactly when the clock starts ticking.
The decision to go to arbitration will not be made lightly. It will depend on such things as importance of the issue (problem), severity of the case, cost, and chances of winning. Your investigation, notes, and reports will become really important when such decisions have to be made.