Grievance and Arbitration

The Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union represents nurses' grievances against employers who are in violation of the collective agreement. Prior to unionization, nurses had few rights or avenues for recourse. The grievance and arbitration process protects the nurse by providing the opportunity for a fair hearing and the right to grieve an unjust situation.

The NSNU’s Labour Relations Representatives, as well as Shop Stewards and Local Executives are equipped with resources and training to assist members in this process, which protects the nurse by providing the opportunity for a fair hearing and the right to grieve an unjust situation. 

The NSNU represents numerous nurses in grievances each year, and settles many more before they reach the arbitration stage. If the complaint cannot be resolved through the steps of the grievance, the NSNU is able to refer the matter to an arbitrator, who will provide a final and binding decision on the grievance. The decision to refer the matter to arbitration rests solely with the NSNU, and occurs after a thorough examination of the facts.

What is a Grievance?

A grievance is a violation of agreement or difference of interpretation.

There are two types of grievances:

  1. Individual 

    The most common types of individual grievances involve discipline, termination of employment, improper layoff, or denial of a benefit. It is an individual grievance as only one person is affected, and so the grievance is filed in the name of the individual. Individual grievances must be filed within ten days after the nurse becomes aware of the breach of agreement. The breach may indeed be an application of general policy and a policy grievance should be filed as well.
  2. Policy

    Policy grievances arise where a policy or practice is applied to all members of the bargaining unit. Therefore, it is a complaint by the Union that an action of the employer is in violation of the Collective Agreement that could affect all who are covered by that agreement.

Recent examples of policy grievances have been pro-rating education premiums for part timers, failure to permit chain dumping, treating those on lay off and doing additional/relief shifts as though they were casuals.

If you have a Grievance with your Employer, please contact a Local Executive member or your Labour Relations Representative.

Duties of the Grievance Committee

The following principles have been set by the Supreme Court of Canada in Canadian Merchant Service Guild vs. Gagnon (1984) 1 S.C.R.509 and should be adhered to in decision-making by members of the Grievance Committee.

  1. The exclusive power conferred on a union to act as spokesperson for the employees in a bargaining unit entails corresponding obligation on the union to fairly represent all employees comprised in the unit.

  2. When, as is true here and is generally the case, the right to take a grievance to arbitration is reserved to the union, the employee does not have an absolute right to arbitration and the union enjoys considerable discretion.

  3. The discretion must be exercised in good faith, objectively and honestly, after a thorough study of the grievance and the case taking into account the significance of the grievance and its consequences for the employee on the one hand and the legitimate interest of the union on the other.

  4. The union's decision must not be arbitrary, capricious, discriminatory or wrongful.

  5. The representation by the union must be fair, genuine and not merely apparent, undertaken with integrity and competence, without serious or major negligence, and without hostility towards the employee.

Referral to Arbitration

When a grievance is denied at the final stage of the grievance process, and the Grievance Committee decides to refer the grievance to arbitration, the Labour Relations Representative responsible will advise whether or not the case should be heard by an arbitrator. The process of selecting an arbitrator can be lengthy, as it is important to find a person best suited to the case. Once an arbitrator is selected, it may be some time before the date is set. The lawyer presenting the case will depend on the Grievance Committee to provide the necessary information to fully present the case.

If you have a grievance that you would like to file, please complete the online form available on the Members Only page.

CFNU Canadian Labour Congress