What is Grievance Mediation?
If your workplace is unionized, Grievance Mediation is an effective alternative to the often slow and expensive grind of resolving a grievance exclusively through the formal process set out in your Collective Agreement.
What are the Benefits of Grievance Mediation?
Grievance Mediation is:
- Much less expensive
- Produces a win-win outcome
- Improves long-term relationships between the parties
- Has a high success rate*
A study published by the Queen’s University Industrial Relations Centre references documented evidence both of this high success rate and these savings in time flowing from utilizing Grievance Mediation. See Birken, Grievance Mediation: The Impact of the Process and Outcomes on the Interests of the Parties (2000);
The differences in cost alone in proceeding by Grievance Mediation are usually significant. These costs are reported in detail in the Birken Study.
If, as is commonly the case, the formal Grievance under the Collective Agreement proceeds to Arbitration, expenses include:
- the Fee for the Arbitrator (significantly more than the Fee for a Mediator)
- the cost to Management of retaining a Lawyer
- the cost of a stenographer to record evidence (except in “Expedited Arbitrations”)
- the lost opportunity cost to the Union of investigation, preparing witnesses and making formal submissions.
Allowing an opportunity for parties to tell their stories in an informal setting, promotes better understanding and creates an atmosphere more conducive to joint problem solving that can have a spill-over effect on the entire workplace and a whole range of workplace friction points. It may not work in all cases, but should definitely be considered as a possibility in any thorough analysis of grievance resolution options.
Mediation encourages face-to-face communication (instead of communicating principally through their representatives), which – as above noted – can aid in building and enhancing on-going and long-term relationships. Mediation reduces the adversarial atmosphere and ‘win-lose’ outcome associated with the Arbitration process. When Union and Management are involved, it can foster better Union-Management relations.
These and some of the other advantages are summarized by the Public Service Alliance of Canada:
“Unlike arbitration, mediation can address the issues and interests surrounding and underlying the matter in dispute. It can help to identify and resolve situations that could produce future grievances. Mediation allows the parties to look beyond the symptoms to see problems in a broader perspective than is possible at arbitration, where the emphasis is on the arbitration of rights and the answers to relatively narrow questions. It can result in practical workplace solutions which may lay the foundation for better working relationships.”
A mediated settlement has the potential to include remedies not available at arbitration e.g., collaborative skills training for union and management representatives; development of a workplace communications policy; agreeing to the text of a revised job description; agreement to market an employee to another organization or agency, or to transfer an employee between departments; agreement to a job classification review; agreement concerning early retirement; retroactivity (for example an agreement to pay backpay); facilitation of a more comfortable work environment until retirement on full pension.”
Who Uses Grievance Mediation?
The Union or Management can request grievance mediation. Some collective agreements set out when and how it will take place, but since it’s a voluntary and informal process anyone can request it at any time – sometimes even before a grievance gets filed.
A Grievance Mediation is conducted on a without prejudice basis and does not interfere with the parties’ right to proceed to Arbitration should Mediation fail. Indeed, the Grievance Mediation process can be resorted to, upon agreement of the parties, at any stage of the formal process provided for by the Collective Agreement.
Any terms of settlement reached at a Grievance Mediation are binding on the parties. Once a settlement has been reached, there is no longer a dispute between the parties, and therefore no matter to be determined by an Arbitrator. Labour Relations Boards have recognized that it is in the best interests good labour relations that binding Mediation Agreements be honoured.
Who are our Grievance Mediators?