Put It In Writing
The importance of record keeping for grievance handling.
So, when should you start keeping a written record? That’s simple. As soon as any issue arises that you feel is a violation of the collective agreement. Not every issue will turn into a grievance, but if it does your notes will be important.
A few reasons you should keep written records are:
- Details are less likely to be overlooked or forgotten. Especially if the issue goes on for a period of time.
- Facts that are recorded can be more easily reviewed by another person (such as your steward) than just a verbal report;
- Your written record is proof and it can be used in evidence if needed for arbitration.
- The difference between winning and losing a grievance claim may depend on the completeness and accuracy of what’s written.
The Importance of Stewards Taking Notes
The Fact Sheet
Stewards are asked to fill out a grievance fact sheet with every grievance. This may seem tedious; however, it is a valuable tool in assisting your union representative and possibly a lawyer if the grievance goes to arbitration.
As a grievor you may be asked to fill out a grievance fact sheet with your steward. Your notes will be important in filling in any of the blanks that your steward may not know. Your participation in this process is important for the success of your grievance. You need to bring to light all the facts surrounding the grievance. Stick to the facts, because facts will win your case, and don’t leave anything out!
Remember, this written statement is only for the use of the union.
The steward is asked to provide the union representative with:
- A written statement of what happened.
- As much relevant detail as possible of the facts of the case and what went on.
- A record of all meetings held with regard to the grievance.
- Who was present and what was said on both sides.
Record keeping and the steward
As a shop steward, you are a direct link between employees, management, and the union.
An important part of your job is to keep communication flowing between these different groups of people. Because communication problems will occur, your ability to take accurate notes and to keep good records is very important.
You may need to provide your union rep with information you received directly from the employer. If you prepare good notes, the information you pass on to the rep will be clear, so they can start taking action as soon as they receive it.
Likewise, your rep may call you with information. Always keep clear notes and write down any information or strategy the rep may communicate to you. You never know when this information will be needed. Don’t rely on your memory, no matter how good you think it is.
Here are some tips on taking good notes (Stewards may find this PDF guide useful as well):
- Be prepared before you need to be. Have note taking supplies available before you need them.
- Start new notes on a new piece of paper.
- Write the date, everyone who is at the meeting and the purpose (e.g. Step 2 meeting) at the top of the page. If it’s just a meeting between you and the grievor write that too.
- Number your pages.
- Leave blank spaces when you write. This way you can go back during or after the meeting and fill in more information if needed.
- Don’t be afraid to ask people to repeat what they said or ask for a moment to make your notes if you’re having difficulty keeping up. This is especially important if you are the only person taking notes.
- Make a conscious effort to pay attention. Sometimes meetings go off track and with our busy lives, sometimes our thoughts can drift only to find you’ve missed an important fact. Concentrate on concentrating.
- Review your notes within 24 hours. Make sure you can read what you wrote and edit if needed.
- Make a new note of anything that needs to be followed up on.
- If you re-write your notes, make sure you keep the original in case they are needed for evidence later.
Taking good notes is an important skill that will improve the more you do it. Make note taking a routine and leave a paper trail.
Some people prefer digital note taking. Here is some software if your prefer to go paperless https://www.thebalancesmb.com/best-note-taking-apps-4171960