Chapter 9: Conflict Resolution: Grievances and Strikes

Conflict Resolution

Grievance and Strikes

Industrial Dispute - Disagreement rising from entering into renewing, or revising a collective agreement \rightarrow after using all dispute resolution solutions which can lead to a strike or lockout


Occurs when number of workers refuse to continue working or stop working

  • Work slowdown also a form of strike \rightarrow terms referred to as Work to Rule

Wildcat Strike

When employees not in legal strike positions walk off the job

  • If this occurs employers get a legal notice which threatens employees of legal penalties

Essential Services Agreement

Strikes restricted, meaning certain number can go on a strike not all


Nurses (must remain for public good)

  • Strikes happen when collective agreement expires \rightarrow if they want to strike earlier that will be in a form of wildcat strike
  • Work to rule used by unions to strengthen their bargaining position and not be on actual strike
  • Work to rule and wildcat are result of restrictions on strike could speculate that there will be more of action as govt continue to place restrictions on strikes


Represents a work stoppage initiated by employer

  • Ont law allows employer to alter employment terms and conditions when they are in a legal lockout position- however they often don’t take such actions as doing can have negative consequences on union-MGM relations

Strike Steps

Mechanisms that occurs for legal strike in Canada- each province have their own legislations (slight variation)

  • Certified unions must take place (ones that can legally go on strike)
  • Current collective agreement must be expired- if CA expired strikes and lockout can’t take place
  • Parties must fail to reach an agreement (Canadian legislation- that negotiation should be in good faith)
  • Unions must have strike mandate \rightarrow by positive strike vote from membership
  • Conciliation and 3rd party dispute resolution procedures needed
  • Union must give notice of strike \rightarrow after all these steps union can legally strike

Theories, Causes and Impact of Strikes

Strike Theories

  1. Accident Theory
  2. Total Joint Costs Theory
  3. Asymmetric Information Theory

Accident Theory

  • Hicks theory, rational negotiations would seek to avoid strikes and lockouts in order to avoid their high costs (lost wages, lost productivity)
  • Theory states strike should be unexpected and that when they occur result of errors made at bargaining table, misunderstandings of bargaining goals, or mismatches between expectations of bargaining team and group they represent

Total Joints Cost Theory

  • Both management and unions face costs associated with strike
  • Argues that strike re more likely when costs of strike is relatively lower for both parties
  • Model looks at total and joint costs to both union and MGM groups
  • If cost of strike is low but high for other strike may not happen because of power imbalance

Asymmetric Information Theory

  • Collective bargaining don’t share goals and priorities but use deceptive tactics to shade the truth about true priorities
  • Theory assumes that parties strike or lockout as a way to see if other side is bluffing
  • Parties gather more information about claims of other party info that would not be easily accessible in other ways
  • Example \rightarrow Professional sports (for salaries)

Strike Causes

  • Catalysts
  • Strikes by single triggered event
  • Isolated and homogeneous groups
  • Intact groups \rightarrow unpleasant job \rightarrowmaybe more prone to strike
  • Monotonous, unpleasant, geographic isolation
  • MGM indifference or unresolved grievances
  • Outcome of industrial relation system employee satisfaction and commitment
  • Frustration \rightarrow Aggression
  • Workers with feelings of work-related frustration, alienation, or dissatisfaction will involvement in union activities
  • Economic factors
  • “good time” \rightarrowmight ask for higher wages
  • Intra-organization factors
  • Intra-organizational misalignment reduce power at bargaining table \rightarrow result in strike activity

Strike Impact

  • Economic
  • Market value affect firm \rightarrow Decreased production, decreased revenues
  • Worker well-being
  • Several changes \rightarrow Affect employment relationship

Read page- 282- “What Has Happened To Strikes?”

Grievances in unionized workplaces

Grievance - Formal complaint that a specific clause in collective agreement has been violated

Individual Grievance and Group Grievance – Individual and group

Union or Policy Grievance - Union leadership rather than members initiate the complaint

Grievance procedure

Parties \rightarrow three key parties \rightarrow employee, union and management

  • If grievance not settled through normal grievance process, external third parties become involved (grievance mediators, arbitrators)


  1. Informal Stage \rightarrow Not in paper but initial step to take complaint to supervisor, if not resolved then complaint
  2. Formal Step 1 \rightarrow Written grievance given to supervisor- collective agreement says how much time to respond – if not resolved moved to step 2
  3. Formal Step 2 \rightarrow Reviewed by MGM (upper level ex. Department manager)- again has time to respond- if not resolved sent to next step
  4. Formal step 3 \rightarrow Goes to even higher level of MGM (ex. Plant manager)
  • Repeat previous step
  • Few things to remember about the process
  • MGM has specific time frame to investigate the grievance and union has a specific time frame to investigate and union has time frame to file grievance
  • At each step both parties can settle
  • Each stage \rightarrow Higher level of both the union and MGM hierarchy are involved- these higher levels consult
  • Formally carry the grievance
  • Industrial relation depth \rightarrow May not be formally named in collective agreement until later steps

Grievance initiation

  • Factors that initiate grievance
  • Grevior characteristics
  • No difference between men and female filing grievance
  • Demographics play a small role in the type
  • MGM characteristics
  • The more strict (performance and disciplinary standards) the MGM the more chances of grievance
  • Union characteristic
  • Grievance leads to productivity and less turnover rate and longer job tenure
  • Recommendations for HR
  • View grievance system as a high-performance HR practice given its positive relationship with org performance
  • Understand the relationship between presence of and usage of grievance procedures \rightarrow important to instill voice and fairness
  • Assess extent to which supervisors are treating workers re-balancing
  • Ensure front line supervisors have good knowledge of collective agreement

Grievance effectiveness and outcomes

  • Effectiveness
  • Two key effective criteria
  • Speed and Satisfaction
  • Outcomes
  • Interesting insights as it relates to outcomes of grievance processes
  • Exit-voice theory predict employee would improve performance and reduce turnover post grievance settlement this may not always be the case
  • Among union and non-union greviors voluntary turnover increase while performance ratings and promotion rates decreased relative to their counterparts who didn’t fall grievance
  • Supervisors who had grievances filed against by employees also experiences similar effects of higher voluntary turnover rates and lower performance ratings and promotion rates

Types of Non-union grievances

  • Open-door policy
  • Common Procedure \rightarrow Policy stating that employees should feel comfortable bringing area of concern
  • Formal grievance
  • Follow chain of command model \rightarrow Employees voice their opinion with immediate supervisor \rightarrow if that is unsuccessful take to next level of MGM
  • Independent review
  • Independent review outside of immediate MGM team
  • Range of oppositions

Why would mgm opt for non-union grievance procedure?

  • Limit MGM flexibility and decision making
  • Several reasons
  • Be a way to minimize the risk of unionization
  • Arguments concerning exit-voice for unionized workers, grievances, represent voice and can reduce employee exit
  • Increasing usage and costs associated with litigation and lawsuits make grievance more attractive
  • Increase perception of justice, and fairness in workplace as workers have ability to challenge workplace decisions

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