Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR): By Using The Union Grievance

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Abstract

One form of Alternative Dispute resolution that has recently been used is a union grievance. This form of ADR is utilized in a Union environment where an employee is represented by a Union official in an attempt to resolve a dispute between employer and employee. This form of dispute resolution can be beneficial to both parties as it avoids costly and time consuming litigation. Each party must agree to abide by the Union contract or bargaining agreement. This contract is basically the “law of the land” and is useful in protecting both the employee and employer by establishing clear cut rules and regulations.

One case in particular started roughly 8 months ago when an employee was reprimanded for placing a product on a customers telephone account without their explicit knowledge. The employee was actually saving the customer money, and certainly no customers complained about the service, but the company discovered the changes while monitoring the employee’s phone calls. While the company certainly has the right to monitor calls, the employee was attempting to be helpful to the customer in saving them money by changing their long distance plan. While the plan certainly was cheaper, and the same as the product they had, the employee’s actions resulted in loss of revenue for the company without a direct request from the customer. The employee was suspended without pay after two instances were documented.

At this point the employee declined union representation, and went back to work after a week of suspension. After being back for only two days, another order was discovered that was previously not recognized in the system. At this point the employee was terminated despite the fact that the order was in the system and processed prior to his suspension. After filing a grievance with his Union Steward, his case went before mediation between the Union and the employer (Contract 11.01A).

During the mediation process the former employee was given the opportunity to discuss why he felt his termination was unfair. Ultimately both he and his union representative were pushing for full reinstatement with back pay since his termination was due to an event that he could not have possibly rectified after his behavior was deemed inappropriate. After about an hour of going back and forth, both parties agreed to full reinstatement without back pay. A compromise was reached that both parties could agree to.

Had the company declined to reinstate the employee there were multiple options that could have been taken by the Union. Because both the company and the Union agreed to the term of the contract no arbitration or escalation was necessary. One very powerful recourse afforded the Union could have been a strike or work stoppage. This form of retaliation against the company is usually reserved for very sever instances usually effecting many people such as layoffs, and benefit issues. Strikes or stoppages are not generally acted upon in a case such as this, although the union would have the right. Had an impasse been reached, either party could have also escalated the issue to a designated State level company representative and Union Steward. Further yet, if no agreement would have been reached, arbitration could have been an option. In this circumstance, both parties would agree upon an impartial arbitrator and their decision would in fact be binding. Furthermore, if both parties were unable to agree upon an arbitrator, the case would be referred to a pre designated mediator that had previously been agreed upon during contract negotiations (Contract 23.01D).

In this particular case an agreement was negotiated between both the Union and Management party that avoided in this case a wrongful termination lawsuit. Because this case occurred in Florida, the jurisdiction would fall under Florida statutes. Despite being a “right to work state”, the employee was covered under a Union contract which would have provided at least some protection had it reached that level of escalation.

Conclusion

By utilizing ADR, management resources as well as Union resources, the company avoided bad public relations, as well as a costly court battle. In addition a valuable employee was salvaged from the wreckage of a few mistakes the employee was not aware were harmful to the company. In this case the ADR process was beneficial to both parties, and a reasonable agreement was reached. Without ADR, the employee may not have been able to afford the legal resources to pursue a wrongful termination case.

"Contract." CWA Local 3109. 08 Aug. 2004. Bellsouth Telecommunications, Inc. 13 Aug. 2007 <http://www.cwa3109.org/contract.htm>.

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