FIGHTING MACHINISTS

Shop Steward Tools

THE SHOP STEWARD

Just Like a Carpenter, the Union Steward needs the right tools to do the job! (Our appreciation to Northwest DL 250 for the use of this well-built toolkit).

The IAM Shop Steward should make use of the following tools when performing his/her duties as the Representative of the Union members in his/her shop:

The Collective Agreement

The Union Steward should know what the contract says and what it means. You should understand how the contract has been interpreted by past grievances and settlements, as well as having a knowledge of agreements and practices between the Union and the Company. This does not mean that you must memorize the contract; knowing where to find information is enough.

Knowledge of the Department or Shop

The Steward should understand the operations of the department or shop that they represent. You should know the jobs, machines, rates of pay, seniority of all members, company rules, and other basic facts. You should also have a copy of any Company rules and regulations, as well as the health and safety policy of the Company.

Knowledge of the People You Must Deal With

In handling grievances, a Steward must be aware of personality differences. You must get to know not only the members you represent, but also the management personnel you will be dealing with. Is the member you represent a cool cucumber or a hothead? Is the manager hard-nosed or reasonable? These factors play an important role in how you deal with issues. Remember in all cases to remain objective. Stick to the facts, and be prepared!

Knowledge of Union Policies and Activities

The Union Steward should be aware of all IAM policies, activities, programs, and procedures so that you can better represent members. Keep a copy of the IAM Constitution and the Local and District Lodge bylaws handy, so you will be better prepared to answer questions brought to you by members in your shop or department.
Other documents you should have: copies of application forms and checkoff authorizations; application for withdrawal card forms; grievance forms and grievance investigation forms; insurance forms for health and welfare plans.

Resources to Find All This Information

The Steward learns his job through day-to-day experience in the shop and through information provided by the Union: General membership and Shop Stewards’ meetings; Labour Council meetings. Informal discussion with other Stewards, Lodge officers, Business Reps, and your District Lodge office. Union and Company publications: IAM Journal, Northwest News, other Union Newsletters, Company newsletters.
Union education courses (IAM schools, CLC weekend schools, etc.)

To many of our Members, the Shop Steward is the Union. He or she is the person the member will look to for guidance on interpretation of their Collective Agreement, for honest representation when there is a dispute with the company over an issue in the workplace, and to help keep the member informed of Union issues.

ABOUT CONTRACTS

Certification

A certification is a legal document, granted to a Labour Union by the Labour Relations Board (LRB). It authorizes the Union to be the bargaining agent for a group of employees, and provides the Union with the legal right to conduct negotiations and make agreements on behalf of the employees.

Certification is automatically granted to the Union if they have received signed Union application cards from greater than 55% of the employees in the proposed Bargaining Unit. If the Union has between 45% and 55% of signed cards, the LRB will order a vote, and the wishes of the majority will prevail.

Bargaining Unit

A Bargaining Unit is defined as a unit of employees appropriate for Collective Bargaining. The description of the Bargaining Unit is found on the certification, and the appropriateness of the Unit is determined by the LRB. A Bargaining Unit may consist of a single shop, with all employees working under one roof; or it may consist of multiple branches or divisions that are nevertheless part of a single Unit.

Collective Agreement

The Union “Contract” is a Collective Agreement that is achieved through collective bargaining between the Employer and the Union bargaining committee. Your Collective Agreement outlines the rights and responsibilities of both parties, such as:

  • Union recognition and management rights
  • Seniority and Job Security provisions
  • Hours of work and overtime
  • Vacations and statutory holidays
  • Wages and benefits
  • General working conditions
  • Grievance and arbitration procedures

SHOP STEWARD DUTIES

The IAM Shop Steward fulfills four CORE roles in the workplace:

Shop Steward as Communicator

As an IAM Shop Steward, you keep Members in the shop informed of Union issues and policies; maintain lines of communication between the members and the Local or District Lodge; maintain lines of communication between the Members and the Company; and act as a spokesperson in your shop.
In addition, you fill a crucial role as the eyes and ears of the Union, keeping the Business Reps and other Union officials informed of what is going on inside the shop. For this reason, it is important that the Shop Steward have good listening skills, and be prepared to keep documentation on important issues.

Shop Steward as Organizer

The Union Steward is in a unique position within his own community to provide the Union with Organizing leads. Often, our contacts with new groups of workers begin with a reference that was provided by one of our Shop Stewards. Your role as one who is well-informed on workplace issues and the benefits of Union membership provides an example that your friends and acquaintances will wish to follow.
If you hear of anyone who may be interested in joining the Union, refer them to the IAM This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or offer to have one of our Business Reps contact them. Be sure to note that we assure confidentiality and that we will not contact them at their place of employment.

Shop Steward as Representative

The IAM Shop Steward is the member’s first line of defense in any grievances or complaints they may have with the Company. Typically, grievance procedure provides an opportunity or requirement for the member to try to resolve differences with the supervisor or manager involved.
Following this first step, the Union Steward would meet with the Company official and try to resolve the problem as the member’s representative. This step may or may not include reducing the grievance to writing – see your own collective agreement for details on grievance procedure.
Failing resolution at this step, the Union Business Rep is usually called in. This is where a thorough investigation by the Shop Steward is crucial to the success of a grievance.

Shop Steward as Educator

Educating the Members in the shop about the Union is another important role of the Shop Steward. Often, new Members have very little knowledge about the Machinists Union; as the Union Steward, you are well-positioned to educate them about the organization they have recently joined.
In addition, all Members need to learn about their rights and responsibilities under the Collective Agreement, about health and safety issues, and about other workplace issues. This does not mean that you must have all the answers – consider yourself a resource person, one who can find the answers to questions. Remember, you can always call the Union office and speak to one of the Business Reps.

The Shop Steward’s Main Duties

1. Meeting All New Employees:

It is the Union Steward’s job to keep the shop or department 100% Union. In some shops it may be the Steward’s job to sign up new members. Where the Contract has a clause outlining that the Company must sign up new employees, it is your job as the Shop Steward to introduce yourself to the new member and ensure that his/her application has been properly processed.

2. Handling Grievances and Enforcing the Contract:

The Shop Steward must handle grievances that are brought forward. In addition, you should continually enforce the Collective Agreement by watching for violations and taking them up with management.

3. Educating the Membership:

The Steward often explains IAM programs, the collective agreement, and the importance of the labor movement.

4. Providing Leadership:

As a Union Steward, you should be a leader in your shop or department. Members expect the Steward to take the initiative on shop problems. However, you must be a democratic leader, not a dictator. Your job is to build a spirit of cooperation and teamwork among members you represent.

5. Assisting Local Lodge Officers:

Helping to get members out to the meetings. Making reports to the Local Lodge on Labour and Health & Safety issues in your workplace. Supporting the Machinists Union’s position on community issues, and attending rallies or events sponsored by the Lodge or Labour as a whole are also important roles.

6. Advising the Member on Other Issues:

When a member has a problem or issue that is not a grievance, the Steward can provide a vehicle for the member to get assistance. You should listen carefully and sympathetically. Often, the Steward can refer the member to an outside organization where they can get counselling. If you do not have the answer, say so. Your job is not to have all the answers, but to help find them. Calling your District Lodge is one resource you can call upon; another is to call your local United Way, which can refer you to many helpful agencies.
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SHOP STEWARD TOOLS

The IAM Shop Steward should make use of the following tools when performing his/her duties as the Representative of the Union members in his/her shop:

The Collective Agreement

The Union Steward should know what the contract says and what it means. You should understand how the contract has been interpreted by past grievances and settlements, as well as having a knowledge of agreements and practices between the Union and the Company. This does not mean that you must memorize the contract; knowing where to find information is enough.

Knowledge of the Department or Shop

The Steward should understand the operations of the department or shop that they represent. You should know the jobs, machines, rates of pay, seniority of all members, company rules, and other basic facts. You should also have a copy of any Company rules and regulations, as well as the health and safety policy of the Company.

Knowledge of the People You Must Deal With

In handling grievances, a Steward must be aware of personality differences. You must get to know not only the members you represent, but also the management personnel you will be dealing with. Is the member you represent a cool cucumber or a hothead? Is the manager hard-nosed or reasonable? These factors play an important role in how you deal with issues. Remember in all cases to remain objective. Stick to the facts, and be prepared!

Knowledge of Union Policies and Activities
The Union Steward should be aware of all IAM policies, activities, programs, and procedures so that you can better represent members. Keep a copy of the IAM Constitution and the Local and District Lodge bylaws handy, so you will be better prepared to answer questions brought to you by members in your shop or department.
Other documents you should have: copies of application forms and checkoff authorizations; application for withdrawal card forms; grievance forms and grievance investigation forms; insurance forms for health and welfare plans.

Resources to Find All This Information

The Steward learns his job through day-to-day experience in the shop and through information provided by the Union:

  • General membership and Shop Stewards’ meetings; Labour Council meetings.
  • Informal discussion with other Stewards, Lodge officers, Business Reps, and your District Lodge office.
  • Union and Company publications: IAM Journal, Northwest News, other Union Newsletters, Company newsletters.
  • Union education courses (IAM schools, CLC weekend schools, etc.)

INVESTIGATING A GRIEVANCE

A Grievance is a violation of the rights of an employee or a group of employees. A quick test of whether or not there is a legitimate grievance can be made using the following questions:

  • Has there been a violation of the Collective Agreement?
  • Has there been a violation of Federal or Provincial Law?
  • Has there been a violation of arbitrable jurisprudence?
  • Has there been a violation of WCB regulations or Company Safety Policies?
  • Has there been a violation of other Company rules and regulations?
  • Has there been a violation of established past practice?

Keep in mind that each situation must be evaluated on its own merits, and that the above list of questions is by no means exhaustive. If you are unsure whether a complaint warrants proceeding to grievance, contact your Business Representative.

Investigating the Grievance

Investigation of the grievance is probably the most important step in the process. In most cases, a proper investigation of a complaint or dispute will allow us to make the determination whether or not there is a genuine grievance. We need to closely examine the circumstances of the situation at hand.

Ultimately, what we need to determine is whether there is a complaint that warrants a grievance and whether there has been a violation that we can pursue under the grievance process.

In addition, during the investigation process, we may find that there is an informal way of resolving the matter in dispute. Keep in mind that resolution of a workplace dispute is the ultimate goal of the grievance process.
When you investigate the problem, always remember the Five W’s.

  • Who was involved in the situations?
  • What happened? (Also, what does the grievor want?)
  • Where did it occur?
  • When did the grievance occur?
  • Why is this a grievance?

Information you will need to Investigate the Grievance:

  • Jobs and Classifications Involved
  • Job Descriptions
  • Work Area and Equipment
  • Pay Rates and Computation Methods
  • Seniority List and Names and Addresses of All Involved
  • History of Previous Settlements and Arbitrations
  • “Past Practice” Information
  • Government Acts and Laws
  • Safety Codes and Workers’ Compensation Regulations
  • Before You Investigate, Always Be Equipped:
  • Collective Agreement
  • Company Rules and Policies
  • Notepad and Pencil or pen (you do take notes, don’t you?)
  • Grievance Investigation Fact Sheets
  • Grievance Forms

Proceeding with Your Investigation

When you investigate a grievance, you should always consider the Five W’s.
Try to proceed in a methodical manner, making certain to record all information acquired. Be sure that you speak to all persons involved in the situation, including not only the grievor, but also any witnesses who might have seen or overheard what happened. Also, be certain that you speak to the management person involved, as they most certainly will have something to say about the situation.

It is not necessary that the Steward win every dispute in order to be effective. Clearly, it is not possible for you to be successful in every situation, but an effective Steward looks into all problems carefully and advises the member as to his or her rights in the matter. Sometimes the answer is that the member has no case for a grievance, but this answer must come as the result of a thorough investigation.

A proper investigation improves the image of both the Steward and the Machinists Union by showing that both are professionals, committed to getting to the truth of a matter. It improves the likelihood that management will give serious consideration to problems the Steward brings forth. It also helps to satisfy the member that s/he is being properly represented.

Finally, a proper grievance investigation allows the Union Steward to be able to argue the points of his case in a fashion that shows management the steward has the facts to help resolve the issue. Grievances are more often won on facts than bluffs!

PRESENTING THE GRIEVANCE

When presenting the Grievance, we need to remember that we are representing the member, and that we are representing the IAM. at all times, we must present ourselves in a professional and responsible fashion. It is important to be firm and to be organized in your presentation. We have added a few tips to help you in this part of the grievance process.

Be Prepared

Do all your preparation beforehand. Make sure you have all your facts down on paper, and review them
before you meet with the supervisor. Have a strategy or summary of the argument you wish to make. If
the Grievor is to be present during the meeting, make sure that they understand that you are to be the spokesperson, and that they should only speak in answer to questions asked and as directed by you.

The “Steward Equality Principle”

Your attitude in approaching the supervisor should be firm and dignified. Remember that in dealing with a grievance you are both equals. This is referred to as the “Steward Equality Principle”. It means that your relationship in the office is not “Boss” and “Worker”, but that of two business associates settling a matter of difference. You are not asking for favours but for Justice.

However, the “Steward Equality Principle” is not to be abused. Private wars with the supervisor have no place in your relationship with the management, and if there is any kind of break in good relations, let it come from the other side. Management reps may become angry and abusive, but the Union’s stewards and representatives should maintain a calm and professional demeanor at all times.

Approaching the Supervisor

In sizing up the management representative, keep in mind that no two people can be approached in the same way. You may have to begin with the theme song that the supervisor understands best, such as productivity, efficiency, company regulations, good relations, or possibly fair play and justice. If you know the supervisor reasonably well, you will know the best approach to make.

To begin with, make the Company prove their case. Ask: “Why was Jones laid off out of seniority?” Listen to their arguments carefully, making notes wherever possible. Ask questions to clarify any points that are not clearly understood.

Making your Argument

When you make your own argument, try to point out where the collective agreement has been violated. Find a precedent, if possible, and cite a similar case that has been settled the way you want it. Examples usually will win over rhetoric.

Don’t allow the supervisor to side-track you. Management representatives sometimes try to move the discussion away from the grievance matter and weaken your position through misdirection. For example, if you are talking about a seniority problem, don’t get bogged down in the theory and practice of seniority issues. Ask how the contract applies in your case — that’s the issue at hand.

Stay Calm

Don’t let the supervisor get you mad, as most people cannot think clearly when they are angry. If he attempts to bait you, remain calm and stick to the subject at hand. If the supervisor becomes angry or abusive, ask him if he would like to take a break for a few minutes and collect his thoughts — this points out his weakness and gives you a position of greater power.

If you and your grievor need to talk privately to consider an offer or discuss a proposed resolution, take a few minutes for a caucus.

Don’t make empty threats. For that matter, don’t make any kind of threats at all. Make your case on the merits of the situation at hand, and on how the Collective Agreement has been violated. The supervisor is likely to settle the case if you prove to him that he is wrong — he usually will not want this type of grievance to go further up the corporate ladder where it can be seen by his superiors.

If You Settle the Grievance

Insist that the settlement be retroactive to the day the grievance occurred. The Grievor should be “Made Whole”. This means he is reinstated with full backpay and without the loss of anything which he would have had if he had continued to work.

Get out as soon as you have won. Many stewards have won a grievance and continued the discussion, only to talk the supervisor into changing his mind again. And don’t gloat or brag on the shop floor about winning the case — it is likely to result in this grievance being the last one you ever win!

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

Collective Bargaining is how the Union establishes a collective agreement with the Company. When the Union first becomes certified to a Company, we enter into contract negotiations with the Company management. The resulting agreement establishes rules that govern how your workplace will operate. Afterwards, negotiations take place every 1-3 years, on average.

Often the IAM Shop Steward will sit on the negotiating committee with the Union Business Representative. The committee representative is generally voted in at the time contract proposals are collected, and in many cases this person is the Shop Steward, due to the natural leadership role the Steward fulfills.

The Shop Steward’s role in Collective Bargaining is to assist the Union Business Representative in negotiations and to take notes on what is said. As a worker in the shop, the Steward is in a unique position to confirm or deny claims made by the Company on how the collective agreement is administered. Thus, the Business Representative often calls upon the Steward to verify how the workplace really operates.

The process of Collective Bargaining may include some or all of the following steps: 

  • Gathering of contract proposals, via meetings and/or proposal sheets.
  • Exchange of proposals with the Company.
  • Further meetings to negotiate new provisions into the agreement.
  • Company offer to the Union.
  • Union votes the offer; if it is deemed appropriate, we put it to a vote.
  • If accepted by a majority of those voting, the new agreement is ratified; if turned down, negotiations will resume.
  • Company has the option of a “Last Offer Vote” (Final Offer), which the Union must put to a vote, per B.C. Labour Code.
  • Either side has option to apply for government mediation if negotiations stall.
  • Union can take a Strike Vote, serve strike notice, and take strike action.
  • Company can serve lockout notice and lock out employees.

Note: 99% of all IAM contracts are ratified without a Strike!

ORGANIZING

Organizing is key to our Union movement. Indeed, as established by the Grand Lodge convention of several years ago, organizing is “Priority One”. This means that we are all needed to provide leads and contacts in organizing new workplaces.

One of your most important tools in organizing is being an effective shop steward in the shop or plant where you work. If you set a good example of the benefits that are gained by Union membership, then others will be attracted by virtue of their desire for a better lifestyle, higher wages and benefits, and the job security and protection that an IAM Collective Agreement and an effective stewardship system can provide.

You can begin by talking about the many benefits that you enjoy under the IAM and your Union Contract. If you hear of anyone who is or might be interested in joining the Union, be sure to direct them to your IAM Organizing Representative.

 

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