NTU's grievance procedure is our major weapon to ensure that all aspects of our contract are enforced. In this endeavor, your first line of defense in effective contract enforcement is your NTU Building representative. Your NTU representative is charged with enforcing the contract, protecting the rights of their co-workers, and continuing the collective bargaining process between the union and management on a daily basis. The NTU building representative does not have to witness the event or actions that form the basis for the filing of the grievance.
Definition of a grievance - According to our contract, (Article III, Section 1A), A grievance is a complaint by an employee that (1) she/he has been treated unfairly or inequitably by reason of any act or condition, including those relative to employee health and safety, which is contrary to established and prevailing policy or practice governing or affecting employees, or (2) there has been to him/her a violation, misinterpretation, or misapplication of the provisions of this Agreement or any of the existing rule, regulations or orders of The Newark Public Schools or the New Jersey State Department of Education having the force and effect of law…
Four Steps in Our Grievance Procedure
Step 1 - The employee, and if they desire their NTU representative, discusses the problem with their immediate superior, who in schools is the principal. Every year, NTU reps in your schools resolve between 600 - 900 grievances at this level. If the issue is not satisfactorily resolved within five (5) school days of the last discussion, the employee may move the grievance to step 2.
Step 2 - The employee submits their grievance in writing to their immediate superior (principal), with the assistance of their NTU representative if they desire. This written submission must be within thirty (30) school days of the employee becoming aware of the act, or circumstance, giving rise to the grievance. The said superior then schedules a meeting to discuss the grievance with the employee and their NTU representative, prior to making their decision. The said superior gives their decision in writing with their reasons to the employee, the NTU, and the State District Superintendent within five (5) school days after the written grievance has been submitted by the employee.
Step 3 - The employee has five (5) school days to appeal their superior's written decision in step 2. The employee initiates the step 3 grievance by giving written notice to the State District Superintendent and their immediate superior (principal) that they're appealing their superior's (principal) step 2 decision. The employee's written notice of appeal must set forth the specific reasons for the grievance. Within ten (10) school days, after receiving the employee's written notice of appeal, the State District Superintendent, or their designee, meets with the employee and their NTU representative. The State District Superintendent then gives their written decision, within five (5) school days after this meeting, to the employee, the NTU, and the employee's immediate superior.
Step 4 - If the grievance has not been satisfactorily settled with the 3 step procedure delineated above, a grievance may be submitted to binding arbitration. Within ten (10) school days after the State District Superintendent's written decision, the employee may submit their grievance for binding arbitration. A qualified arbitrator is selected mutually by the NTU and the Newark Public Schools. The arbitrator arranges the dates, meeting places and agenda of all arbitration proceedings. The arbitrator's written decision is final and binding on all parties.
Decision on which cases to arbitrate is based on five questions:
1. Is the Union right?
2. Does the union have evidence and arguments to win the case?
3. Is the issue sufficiently important?
4. What effect will winning or losing have on the contract?
5. Is there an alternative acceptable resolution?
How NTU members can prepare for a grievance
As previously mentioned, your NTU Building Representative is your first line of defense in the grievance procedure. They should be consulted when a member believes a grievance has occurred, based on the definition on the previous page. Then the NTU building representative will consult with the agireved member to determine how to proceed. To make this determination, six crucial "W" questions need to be answered:
1. Who is involved? Which member(s) of NTU's bargaining unit are affected by the administrative action being complained about? Which administrators acted or failed to act properly, thus causing the complaint. Which people witnessed the action, or have knowledge about it, or related matters? Each of these people should be interviewed and a written record of these interviews should be made and kept in the grievance file.
2. When did it happen? The time of the incident may help determine the merit of the grievance and the moment of the incident, or the grievant's first knowledge of the action, starts the clock on the grievance procedure. A grievance that is not filed and processed in a timely manner can be lost, regardless of the strength of the arguments and evidence the union presents.
3. Where did it happen? The setting and environment of an incident can be a determining factor in determining whether an action was right or wrong, particularly when management is considering disciplinary action.
4. What happened? What action, or failure to act by management is the basis of the complaint? All specifics and available documentation of the incident need to be gathered. Most of this information comes from the grievant, the supervisor involved, and any witnesses to the event. Facts need to be separated from hearsay, opinions and allegations. All relevant materials, including letters, files, incident reports and records need to be examined. Precision is critical here. Specific details are easier to remember when they're written down after an incident occurs. Remember, memory fades and changes with time.
5. Why is it a grievance? What article(s) of the contract are violated or breached because of what happened? Remember, your complaint may be justified but, if it's not a violation of our contract, it's not a grievance. The facts of the case must be connected to specific language in the contract. Legitimate grievances can also be filed based on past practice, policy and rule. Past practice refers to unilateral actions taken by management which substantially alter the terms and conditions of employment. A grievance on policy can occur when procedures established by management are not formally acted on by management, management does not make a reasonable effort to inform all members of the bargaining unit that the policy exists and applies to them, and/or management does not uniformly enforce the policy. If there is a negotiated rule in our contract, it must be consistently and uniformly applied. If management only occasionally or selectively enforces the rule, then the union can grieve the procedure to protect employees who are punished for violating the rule.
6. What must be done to make the grievant Whole? The remedy must be identified that is consistent with our contract and restores the grievant to the status which they would have held had the violation not occurred. The purpose of the remedy is restitution not revenge. Apologies from and punitive actions against the administrators who violated the contract are not appropriate remedies, as much as morality suggests they should.
REMEMBER!!! YOUR ABILITY TO ANSWER THESE SIX QUESTIONS, WITH AS MUCH DETAIL AS POSSIBLE WILL HELP RESOLVE YOUR CASE SUCCESSFULLY. WRITING DOWN YOUR ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS WILL ALSO HELP TO SPEED UP THE PROCESS.