Contract language can be difficult to interpret and understand and not all events are actually grievable. Here we will attempt to provide our members with a brief understanding about the difference between what can legally be grieved under the contract and what may be a gripe or complaint.
In order to file a grievance, there has to be an actual contractual basis for one under the contract or one or more of the components listed below should apply. If none exist, you may have only a “gripe.”
A grievance has one or more of the following components and we will go into them in further detail below:
- Violates a contract section.
- Violates a company rule/policy.
- Discipline is rendered without just cause.
- Event in which a Flight Attendant is treated disparately/unfairly/discriminatorily.
- Violates a Past Practice.
- Violation of Law.
1. Violation of the Contract
Section 19.C.2.a . of our contract defines a contractual grievance as:
- A Flight Attendant, or the Union on behalf of a Flight Attendant or a group of Flight Attendants, may file a grievance concerning any action of the Company which the Flight Attendant or Union believes is a violation of the terms of the Agreement.
If the company violates a provision of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) then a grievance may be filed.
You’ll need to carefully review the CBA to determine what section you believe management has disregarded. Once you have located the portion(s) of the CBA which have been violated you may now be ready to pursue filing a grievance. Once you’ve determined a grievance is called for, contact a grievance representative to write and submit the grievance. Per Section 19.C.2.b of the CBA contractual violations must be filed within 30 calendar days of the time you became aware or reasonably should have become aware of the circumstances from which the dispute arose.
2. Violation of Company Policy
A grievance may also be filed if the company violates a provision of its own company policy. Your Grievance Representative will determine, in consultation with AFA-CWA staff attorney, whether to file a grievance involving a potential violation of company policy.
3. Discipline Without Just Cause
Section 19.C.1 of our contract defines a disciplinary grievance as follows:
- A grievance challenging an action of discipline or discharge.
As per section 19.C.1 of our contract the grievance must be submitted by the Union to the Director of Inflight within fifteen (15) calendar days after the Flight Attendant is notified of the Company’s disciplinary or discharge decision.
The Company has a right to manage its workforce through dispensing discipline. However, such discipline must be for “Just Cause.” There are certain standards and conditions the Company must meet to prove their burden that discipline was dispensed fairly and with “just cause.”
You have the right to a Union Representative during any investigation that could lead to discipline. We strongly urge you to exercise this right.
When do you need a Union Rep?
If a manager requests that you meet with them, it is important to remember to:
- Ask the Manager if the meeting is about a disciplinary matter.
- If the Manager says “yes,” you are entitled and encouraged to have a Union Representative present.
Why should you have a Union Representative at the meeting?
It is always good to have a second pair of eyes and ears. Union Reps are trained to keep the meeting focused, they will advocate for you if discipline results, and they will keep the information confidential. Not only that, having a rep with you can be a source of moral support. Don’t go into a meeting unprepared. Protect your rights through proper representation.
4. Disparate Treatment
There may be instances in which a Flight Attendant is treated disparately or more harshly than others guilty of the same offense. In some cases, this may also involve discriminatory practices which violate company policy or Federal Law. Your Grievance Representative will determine, in consultation with AFA-CWA staff attorney, the best course of action.
5. Violation of Binding Past Practice
A grievance may also be filed for a violation of binding past practice. In order for an action of the company or the union to be considered a binding past practice it must meet all of the following guidelines:
Past practice is a course of dealing which is:
- Open and notorious (i.e. not a secret practice) such that both parties (the company and the union) are aware of the practice;
- Both parties agree on how the practice works;
- Both parties perform in accordance with what they perceive the practice to be;
- The practice is long standing and has occurred over multiple contracts and management teams.
6. Violation of Law
In some cases, the union can file a grievance for a violation of law. Other avenues for resolution may be available and could be more appropriate. Your AFA-CWA Staff Attorney will review the case in consultation with your Grievance Committee to determine the appropriate course of action.
If none of the conditions listed above are met, then your issue probably doesn’t rise to the level of a grievance. While we may be looking at a situation which is a “gripe,” it doesn’t mean that your issue isn’t important and that we can’t attempt to find some sort of resolution in the matter. Gripes are typically handled through AFA’s committee structure. Our committees compile Flight Attendant concerns and meet with management to try and effect change outside the contract provisions.
In order to have your issue addressed, the committee will need detailed documentation of the concern involved. If you know which committee to contact, you should submit your documentation directly to that committee. If you aren’t sure which committee to turn to, you can submit the documentation to your Local Council Officers who will then forward it to the appropriate committee. Documented concerns are also collected and can be used to identify areas of the contract that may need improvement during the next round of contract negotiations.