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Breach of a Collective Agreement - Grievances

Collective agreements vary from workplace to workplace. There are different ways that workplace sexual harassment can be a breach of a collective agreement. When a collective agreement is breached the union can file a grievance. Generally only a union can file a grievance.

Workplace sexual harassment can be a breach when the collective agreement…

  • prohibits workplace sexual harassment
  • requires the employer to protect the health and safety of employees
  • prohibits discrimination
  • includes a policy about sexual harassment and this policy is not followed

Grievances can also be based on an employer breaking laws such as human rights laws and occupational health and safety laws.

A grievance could be based on an employer’s failure to provide a sexual harassment-free workplace.

Sexual harassment need not be directed at a particular individual. Employers face a high duty to ensure that the workplace is free from material that is offensive. ~Jones v. IWA, Local No., 1-3567 (British Columbia Supreme Court)

A grievance could be based on how an employer has dealt with an alleged harasser.

The grievor, in this case, posted hateful comments...one of which could reasonably be construed as a threat of sexual assault. The company is responsible…for maintaining a workplace free of harassment. I do not find that the company violated the collective agreement by terminating the grievor’s employment. ~United Steelworkers of America, Local 9548 v Tenaris Algoma Tubes Inc. (Ontario Labour Arbitration)

A grievance could be based on how an employer treated a worker who has experienced sexual harassment.

The Arbitrator is satisfied that the Grievor's refusal to continue to work was based on a reasonable personal excuse. She appropriately attempted to obtain permission to leave her station to report that she was being sexually harassed. ~Hershey Canada Inc. (Moirs Division) v Bakery, Confectionery & Tobacco Workers' International Union (BCT), Local 446 (Nova Scotia Labour Arbitration)

Grievance Process

Collective agreements usually set out a process for dealing with grievances. For this reason the process can vary from workplace to workplace. Generally, the grievance process will have a number of steps each designed to try to resolve the issue.

Duty of Fair Representation

Unions have a duty to fairly represent members who are alleging a breach of the collective agreement. They cannot act without any rational reason or dishonestly. They cannot discriminate against a member on any grounds, including whether they like the person, when deciding what to do with a complaint.

When a Union Does Not Fairly Represent

If an employee thinks the union has not fairly represented them when dealing with a grievance they can make a complaint to the Labour Relations Board.

Co-Worker Sexual Harassment

When sexual harassment takes place in the workplace it can be, and often is, perpetrated by a fellow employee. In this situation the union must fairly represent both members of the union.

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The Shift Project is funded by the Department of Justice and delivered by the Public Legal Education Association of Saskatchewan (PLEA).