Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Grievance Definition:

A claim by a union or a unionized employee that a collective bargaining agreement has been breached.

The formal document in which a union claims that the employer has breached the collectrive bargaining agreement and for which, arbitration is convened.

In Alam, the arbitrator wrote:

"A grievance is an allegation of a breach of the collective agreement."

In Missoula, the court rejected the union's claim that an initiative by the employer to eliminate a school program was a grievance:

"The (union) has failed to allege a violation of a specific provision of the (collective bargaining) agreement.

"A mere allegation that a collective bargaining agreement has been violated is not sufficient to justify an order to arbitrate. A party must point to a specific provision of the contract to support its demand for arbitration."

In the context of a unionized workplace, it is standard though not necessarily absolute, that a union champion an employee's grievance, by its endorsement. In other words, if a union representative does not endorse an employee's complaint in regards to an alleged violation or breach of the collective bargaining agreement, it may not be a grievance and on that basis, precluded from proceeding to arbitration.


  • Alam v. Power Workers' Union 1994 OLRB Rep. 627 (Ontario)
  • duhaime.org, Employment and Labour Law
  • International Union v Acme Precision 521 F. Supp. 1358 (1981)
  • Missoula County High School Education Association v Board of Trustees 857 P. 2d 696 (Supreme Court of Montana, 1993)

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