One of the most common questions members ask is "what does a grievance look like?" If you've never gone through the grievance process, it can feel overwhelming. This is a quick guide on what to expect.

All grievances are subject to the guidelines in our collective agreement, Article 9 Grievance Procedure. (FBA Collective Agreement) You should read that article and become familiar with it because it will help you understand what is happening in the language it was written.

There are two quotes we follow. They'll help you understand a lot of the advice you get from your steward.

1. The employer acts. The union reacts. 

2. Work now. Grieve later.

Step One

At the first step, you will need to talk with your manager or supervisor to let them know you have a concern and are beginning the first step of a grievance. There's three things to note here:

1. You have to initiate the conversation. Your steward is an employee just like you working in their regular job. They can't talk to your manager or supervisor on your behalf. They can come with you to have the conversation, but they won't have it without you.

2. You have to identify that this is a step one to your manager. If you don't tell your leadership team why you're talking to them (aka: that you're grieving something that happened) then they can't resolve it via the grievance process. It can be a little scary the first time you have to tell your manager that you are grieving an outcome, but they have support from HR. They'll be fine. You'll be fine too. You have the union.

3. You have seven days to grieve something. That timeline is firmly in our collective agreement and we can't get around it. If you see the days passing and you haven't been able to see your manager or a shop steward, email them and say, "I'd like to book a meeting to have a step one about [whatever the incident is]." The only person who can stop the clock on the seven days is the grievor. (That's you.) 

The first step can take a long time to work through. If it's a simple grievance, you might only need one meeting to resolve it. If it's more complex, you might need multiple meetings. You'll be in all the meetings at this step because the collective agreement obligates both the union (that's you with or without your steward) and the employer (that's your manager) to make every reasonable effort to resolve the issue.


You and your steward may have a conversation in person, by phone, by videoconference, or by email. The steward is going to listen to the events and take some notes and then will ask you some questions. They need to know the details so they can help you resolve the grievance - hopefully in your favour. Your steward is obligated to maintain confidentiality. Be candid with your steward. If you are in hot water and you know it's because of something you did, tell your steward. They can't represent you with only some of the facts - especially if your manager knows all the facts. Speaking of facts, you'll probably need to do some research. For example, if you were denied an overtime shift, you'll need to find out who it was awarded to. Your steward has no way to look into that and, if they are working in their own job, they also don't have the time to do research for you.

During the Step One Meeting

In the step one meeting(s), you are expected to do most of the talking. The steward doesn't know your situation. You're an expert on what happened and what outcome you want. Your steward will help you with the guidelines and the approach to resolve things, but you should come prepared to take the lead. Your steward is there is help you get a fair outcome.

Some do's and don'ts:

DO stick to the facts that led to the event. ("I was denied vacation leave from the 12th to the 15th.")

DO humanize why you want a different outcome. ("My sister is getting married.")

DO come prepared with any relevant material. ("Here's a list of everyone who is working those days. The department is fully staffed.")

DON'T throw your coworkers under the bus.

DON'T be rude or argumentative with your manager. 

DON'T use the meeting time to air every single concern you've ever had. 

You can't fix everything in one meeting, so focus on the only reason you called the meeting.

Some good advice: Limit what you write on the employer's email. Before you get into the details of your grievance, it's better to share those from your personal email and send it to the union email. ( 

Some more good advice: Don't forward emails from the union to your manager. Just don't.

Step Two

If you weren't successful in Step One, you'll move to Step Two, which is filing the written grievance. You'll get a copy of the written grievance in paper or PDF with some sections for you to complete. If you think your steward didn't get the resolution correct, let them know. Please don't amend the paperwork yourself. There may be a reason why the steward wrote it as they did. When you've completed your portion of the Step Two paperwork, return it to the steward. Do NOT send it directly to your manager. The steward needs to be sure everything is correct before it goes to a manager AND they need a copy to send to the regional office to alert the Service Representative. An incorrectly filed grievance is one that is considerably harder to resolve. 

Your steward may also send you a fact-finding document for you to complete. Do NOT send that to your manager. That's for union use only.

Step Three

At this stage, your grievance is in the union's hands and you won't be in the meetings to discuss it. The collective agreement says your grievance will be discussed by the union and the employer very quickly. While this is true in theory, there can be a lot of factors that slow this down. Vacations, pandemics, restructuring, and complexity can mean a grievance at Step Three can take a lot of time, sometimes even more than a year. Your steward will do their best to keep you up to date on what is happening, but when in doubt, email them. If your issue is urgent, like a vacation that is coming up, the union will prioritize it. If your issue is non-urgent, like resolving a shift you didn't get called for, it can take longer.