Much of TUFA’s day-to-day activity involves conflict resolution between our members and the university administration. We solve most problems without recourse to the formal grievance mechanism and encourage members to inform us as soon as possible when disputes or conflicts arise. We are most effective when we are able to intervene early. In addition to providing representatives to accompany members in meetings with their Dean or other administrators, the Association works with individual members to ensure that interpersonal conflicts at the workplace are appropriately addressed by the Employer. Broader problems involving institutional policies or interpretations of the collective agreement we generally route to Joint Committee initially.
When a problem proves intractable, or a member is disciplined, or a disagreement with the Employer cannot be resolved through Joint Committee, the Union’s Grievance Committee and Executive take up the task of defending our members and their interests through the formal grievance mechanism outlined in the Collective Agreement (Article XIII). It is important for members to understand their rights and responsibilities in the grievance process.
For starters, members must let us know as soon as possible if they believe that their rights under the collective agreement have been violated or infringed. Generally, the Association is required to act within 50 days of any such act or omission and so the sooner you contact us about a problem the better. Often our initial advice will be tactical – aimed at helping resolve the problem informally through your department or School; however, once a violation of the contract has been alleged we are able to manage timelines to ensure that any such informal efforts not “run out the clock” on filing a timely grievance.
When you contact the Association about a grievance, your file will be assigned to a member of the Grievance Committee (often the Union’s Executive Director) for an initial consultation. Where potential conflicts exist between you and other members, you will generally be assigned a representative who is not otherwise representing other involved member(s). Information shared with the Union is treated confidentially within TUFA and shared on a need-to-know basis with members of the staff, grievance committee, and Executive. The TUFA Office staff maintain our grievance files.
In preparing for a meeting with your grievance representative it is helpful to have pulled together and any relevant communications and documents in advance of your meeting. Additionally, it is important to disclose any and all relevant facts to your representative. If an error or mistake on your part contributed to the problem, your representative needs to know this from the outset.
Steps in the Grievance Process
Following the reporting of a potentially grievable matter to the union, you will be assigned a representative and arrangements made for a meeting as soon as possible. This initial intake of information by your representative will help the grievance committee determine whether a broader investigation is warranted and/or how best to address the issues raised.
If an investigation is warranted, the union may seek an extension of timelines from the Employer for this purpose and, once the relevant facts are assembled, the grievance committee will determine whether or not to recommend that the Executive Committee file a formal grievance.
Where a positive recommendation to grieve is made, the Executive will be briefed on the facts of the case, and may opt to file, not file, or defer filing a grievance pending other steps intended to resolve the matters in dispute. After a grievance is filed by the Union’s Executive, the Employer has a 10-day window to provide a response, though this is often extended in practice to allow the Employer to conduct its own investigation, meet with the grievor(s) and their union representative, and/or discuss the matter with TUFA through Joint Committee.
Following receipt of the Employer’s decision, the Union has 15 days to advance the matter to arbitration. The decision on whether or not to pursue arbitration is made by the Executive, generally in consultation with the grievance committee and legal counsel. In making its decision, the Executive will weigh, not only the likelihood of success, but such other factors as costs to the union versus the benefit to the individual, potential precedents that may be set with respect to interpretation of the collective agreement, and the potential utility of any remedies sought.
In all cases, the Association retains carriage of the grievance and makes a good faith effort to keep individual grievants closely informed of the progress of their file. Direct costs related to arbitration are shared by the Union and Employer. Arbitration is enormously time consuming and the backlog of cases in the system mean that most cases will not be heard for, at least, a year. Hearings can extend over a period of months, and a decision can be pending for some time thereafter. The decision of the Arbitrator is final and binding on all parties and becomes public once rendered.
TUFA’s 2021/22 Grievance Committee is comprised of the following members:
- David Newhouse, Chief Grievance Officer
- Susan Wurtele, Chief Negotiator
- Geoff Navara,
- James Watson,
- Michele McIntosh,
- Marcus Harvey, Executive Director