Teaching Leaders Successful Conflict Management in Unionized Environments

conflict management in the workplace

Unions are vital pillars of the labour force. They ensure fair pay, reasonable working hours and safe working conditions for all employees. For employers and managers, navigating conflict in a unionized environment has become increasingly complicated due to the complex labour laws, employment standards, and collective agreements that must be followed.

For first-time managers leading in a unionized environment, navigating the grievance process can be tricky and confusing. Keep reading to learn how Pivot HR’s conflict management training sets managers up to lead confidently and correctly.

Grievance Management

In most union settings, all conflict should be addressed and resolved through the grievance process outlined in the collective agreement. Employees can file grievances for a multitude of reasons, including harassment and bullying, an incorrect paycheck, dissatisfaction with a job assignment, and so on.

According to the Canadian Labour Congress, a grievance is “a violation of the employee’s rights on the job – whether under the collective agreement or legislation.” However, it is essential to remember that not all complaints are grievances. There must be a clear violation of the collective agreement, labour laws, past practices and/or the employee’s rights.

The Collective Agreement

The first thing Pivot HR considers when designing a training program for a unionized client is their collective agreement, which outlines the terms and conditions employees are entitled to as a bargaining unit. As the contract between employer and union, the collective agreement is pivotal to understanding employers’ liberties in periods of conflict.

Managers need to be familiar with the business’s collective agreement with the union before taking action to prevent workplace conflict. There will be terms and stipulations regarding how an employer should address conflict, the steps to follow, and when the union needs to be involved.

Pivot HR provides case studies similar to the client’s situation to equip leaders with the tools to lead their team through conflict successfully. Following the collective agreement with consistency creates an environment where employees feel listened to, understood and respected.

Encourage Communication

Discourage the bystander effect by encouraging upstander behaviour in the workplace, where employees are united allies in maintaining a positive and safe corporate culture. Foster an environment where employees feel heard.

It’s hard to stand up for yourself, and even harder when your bully is a coworker or a superior. When a person’s livelihood is on the line, they hesitate to launch a formal complaint for fear of retaliation. Many bullying and harassment victims would sooner suffer in silence than speak to management or HR about what they are experiencing.

When To Involve the Union

Knowing when to involve the union depends on the severity of the grievance, and the stipulations outlined in the collective agreement can be convoluted. Understanding your place as a manager within the grievance process is critical to following the proper steps.

Managers need to be mindful of the timeline of events, who is involved, the business’s relationship with the union, and what processes have already been completed. In unionized environments, the importance of carefully documenting everything cannot be understated. When the union is eventually involved, provide the representatives with as much information as possible.

Contact Us

When clients choose to work with Pivot HR, they sign up for a highly specialized, streamlined process. We design our conflict management and labour relations training to tailor fit clients’ current predicament. Thanks to our offices in Vancouver and Toronto, Pivot HR can offer in-person training; we offer half-day, full-day and luncheon training.

Get in touch with us to learn more about Pivot HR’s Labour Relations training.

What Our Clients say about us

Read more testimonials