Role of the Delegate in Handling Grievances


Your job is two-fold. In addition to your work in building the organization in your school, you have an important role in ENFORCING THE CONTRACT AND RESOLVING GRIEVANCES. It is important that you deal with situations in the school in such a way as to convince members that the BTF is concerned about their professional welfare, and that it stands ready and able to help them.

The purpose of the grievance procedure is to secure the satisfactory resolution of contractual disputes. There must be free communication with members in order to reach such resolutions. It is important that your personal likes or dislikes do not influence your decisions and/or "union representation" in this regard. Always keep in mind the need for unity in your building. If a problem seems likely to arouse dissension, try to handle it as diplomatically as possible. If a complaint may somehow effect someone else in the ranks, seek them out and make sure that person is made aware of the possibilities. Also, try to secure a consensus rather than a simple majority. Ask for assistance if you need it. 

1. FIRST MAKE SURE THE PROBLEM IS A GRIEVANCE

A grievance is not a complaint against school authorities, fellow workers, personal disagreements and out-of-school problems, or a mistake in reading the Contract. A grievance may be a complaint by one or more teachers of a violation, a misapplication or a misinterpretation of the Contract, or a Board personnel policy. When in doubt, get in touch with your BTF Staff.

It may be necessary to talk to the complainant, at length, to determine whether a grievance exists. Consult the relevant sections of the Contract. There are some gray areas where there is no clear cut line of demarcation. In any borderline cases, give the teacher the benefit of the doubt and consult the BTF.

2. IF YOU ARE SURE A COMPLAINT IS NOT A GRIEVANCE

Tell the teacher gently that it cannot be taken up as such, and explain why it is not a grievance in the sense of the Contract. If the teacher is still not satisfied, present the case to the BTF Staff - it may be one of those "judgment calls" or you miqht be wrong. Be informative, tactful and supportive to each member.

An out-of-school- problem is not a grievance, of course, but you may be able to help refer a teacher, with such a problem, to someone who can help. If your knowledge or resource is too limited, the Federation may be able to help.

3) GATHERING INFORMATION

Facts are ammunition; be sure you get all the facts from the grievant, so that BTF can prepare the best case possible.

DON’T BE SATISFIED WITH GENERALITIES – Insist on facts – Take notes – Talk to other teachers, if necessary. Be very careful, however, in talking to others not to betray the teacher’s identity, confidence, or right to privacy.

IN PROCESSING THE GRIEVANCE – See grievance procedures in the Contract for information on actual procedures and time limits. Always consult with the BTF regarding which articles to include and what to write on the grievance form.

4) ENCOURAGE THE GRIEVANT TO HAVE A REPRESENTATIVE WITH HIM/HER AT THE FIRST LEVEL OF THE GRIEVANCE PROCEDURE

PREPARE THE GRIEVANT BEFORE MEETING WITH THE PRINCIPAL – Once you have consulted with the BTF and it is decided that you will submit the grievance to the Principal, wait no longer than three days for a response in hand or a Level I meeting. Again, in consultation with BTF, decide on strategy; how to present the grievance, what facts to use, how to answer the arguments you anticipate from the principal.

AT THE CONFERENCE WITH THE PRINCIPAL A LOT DEPENDS ON YOUR ATTITUDE – In the process of presenting a grievance, the Delegate and the principal are equals.

5) PRESENT YOUR CASE AND THE SETTLEMENT DESIRED

Clearly state what has happened to your teacher or teachers, how such action violates the contract and where the contract such protections or rights can be found. Present the resolution to the problem or incident that is acceptable to the grievant and the Federation. Discuss possible settlement agreements only if the violation ceases to exist.

6) KEEP THE FOLLOWING RULES IN MIND:

Don’t let the principal break the united front between you and the grievant. If a disagreement arises, take time out to straighten this out in private; step outside the room. Make sure the grievant is warned about this possibility in advance.

Don’t let them stall – Keep time limits in mind all the time and remind the principal of these limits. Agreement to extend any grievance timeline at Level I must be in writing. Consult the BTF immediately if this is proposed by either the grievant or administrator.

Don’t be side-tracked. If they try, let them talk themselves out and bring them back to the facts of the complaint/violation.

Don’t let the principal talk you into a trade where they win on one grievance and you win on the next. This is unfair to the grievant involved. Settle each case on its merits and the acceptance of the grievant.

Remain calm and articulate. Don’t let the principal make you lose your temper – few people can think straight when they are in a rage. Remember, you can always appeal the case to the next level.

IF YOU CAN’T SETTLE, DISAGREE WITH DIGNITY – Tell the principal that you disagree and proceed to the next step. Forward the grievance and Level I response to the BTF immediately.

7) ENFORCE THE CONTRACT

Sometimes you will find out about a contract violation even though the affected person does not complain. Discuss the situation with the person involved. Point out the violation. Explain how the Federation would block any retaliatory measures if the person is reluctant to act on their rights.

If the person still does not want to initiate the grievance, in some cases, you cannot do it for them. However, during the monthly building committee meeting with the principal, discuss in a general way the practice which violates the Contract. If you are unsuccessful, let the Federation know about it. There may be other channels of redress the Federation can use.

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