Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Grievance Arbitration Definition:

The resolution of a dispute as to an alleged violation of a term of a collective bargaining agreement, by arbitration.

A species of arbitration established to resolve a dispute on an employee or a union's allegation that a term of a collective bargaining agreement has been breached.

In Re Geiger, the Ontario arbitrator wrote:

"Grievance arbitration is a system created for collective bargaining relationships that provides the parties with a procedure for final and binding resolution of their disputes that arise over the interpretation, administration, application or alleged violation of the terms and conditions of employment contained in the collective agreement during its term."

This summary may not be entirely correct in that most cases require that a grievance be specific to a section of the CBA which, the union must allege, has been breached. The decision in Re Geiger suggests, perhaps wrongly, that a grievance that, generally, invokes a policy issue in relation to the CBA, without more, can form the subject of a grievance.

In BC Gas, the arbitrator adopted these words

"Grievance arbitration is an adjudicative process through which disputes arising out of the application and operation of a collective agreement are finally resolved. As such, it performs the same function for the parties to a collective bargaining agreement as do the courts in resolving issues and disputes arising from the operation of contracts in society generally.

"In essence, it is a private, quasi-judicial system created for each collective bargaining relationship.

"Grievance arbitration is but one of two quite distinct processes, both of which are commonly characterized as labour arbitration. The other, interest arbitration, from which grievance arbitration must be distinguished, is a form of dispute resolution in which the arbitrator makes the terms, conditions and rules which govern the employer-union-employee relationship. So characterized, interest arbitration functions as a surrogate for collective bargaining, and the awards of arbitrators in these circumstances take the form of and serve the same purpose as collective agreements. Normally, they do not contain reasons for decision nor do they make findings of right or wrong.

"Therefore, in order for a dispute to proceed to arbitration there must be a substantive right contained in the collective agreement which would be defeated if the matter could not referred to arbitration."


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