Grievance Machinery

What is a Grievance?

A grievance is defined by the collective bargaining agreement.

Generally speaking, a grievance is any difference or dispute between an employee or the union, and the employer with respect to the interpretation, application, or of compliance with any terms and conditions of the contract.

Other authors defined Grievance as any dissatisfaction, complaint, irritation, or misunderstanding (real or imagined) of an employee arising from his job, or his relationship with his employer, any violation of the CBA or of the Labor Code that he thinks or feels he is wronged or treated unfairly (Sison 1991).

In the broadest sense, grievance includes all dissatisfaction that arise in an organization whether unionized or not.

If the term grievance is to be applied in the loose or generic sense, any dispute or controversy respecting terms and conditions of employment which an employee or group of employees may present to the employer can be a grievance, even without a union or CBA. Under this interpretation, any complaint, question or problem that an employee or group of employees may wish to take up or discuss with the employer respecting terms and conditions of employment for the purpose of resolving or satisfying the same, constitutes a grievance. The expansion of original and exclusive jurisdiction of voluntary arbitrators to include questions arising from the interpretation and enforcement of company policies has the effect of widening  the meaning and interpretation of grievance to include a situation where there is no collective bargaining agent and no CBA.


The Grievance Machinery 

Article 260 of the Labor Code requires parties to establish a grievance machinery for the adjustment and resolution of grievances arising from the interpretation or implementation of a collective bargaining agreement or the interpretation or enforcement of company personnel policies.

Grievances submitted to the grievance machinery and not settled within seven calendar days shall automatically be referred to voluntary arbitration.

The grievance procedure refers to the internal rules of procedures intended to resolve all issues arising from the implementation and interpretation of the CBA.

Established by the parties in their CBA, this grievance procedure leads to voluntary arbitration as the final step. It is part of the continuous process of collective bargaining, which intended to promote friendly dialogue between labor and management as a means of maintaining industrial peace.

It is an orderly process established in the CBA whereby the employer, the employee and the union, present to each other a complaint or dissatisfaction, in the hope of getting it settled quickly. Grievance machinery, which lays down a formal process for settling complaints and stresses an employee’s right to air his gripes and expect redress, is one of the chief tools of employee relations. It is designed to give employees every opportunity to be heard. Its aim is to eliminate or reduce dissatisfaction, misunderstanding, or complaint, which can affect the employee’s morale and reduce efficiency. A good grievance procedure guarantees that individual gripes will be fully heard and considered.

The law mandates no particular set-up for grievance machinery. Rather, Article 260 of the Labor Code, as incorporated in RA 6715 provides for single grievance machinery in the workplace.


Reasons for Establishing Grievance Machinery 

Generally, the grievance procedure:

  1. Provides for peaceful resolution of disputes;
  2. Provides a systematic way to resolve problems through fact finding
  3. Provides a method of interpreting the contract
  4. Protects the integrity of the contractual agreement
  5. Improves the efficiency of the organization
  6. Can improve labor-management relations
  7. Identifies problems in plant operations or the contract itself
  8. Keeps the lines of communication between the parties open during the life of the contract
  9. It gives employees an opportunity to voice their concerns
  10. Provides the individual union member with the ability to appeal a decision and ultimately allows the member to resolve the problem through exhausting his/her rights under the grievance procedure, or possibly by overturning the decision of management through arbitration


Typical Steps in the Grievance Process

Essentially, the grievance process involves union and management addressing the grievance and attempting to reach an acceptable resolution.  The specifics of the grievance process will be spelled out in the labor agreement.

Typically, the contract outlines the specific steps in grievance handling, specifying time limits for both sides.  The ramifications of not adhering to these time limits are usually identified as well, e.g., the grievance may be considered waived or settled or may automatically move on to the next step.

Step 1.  Shop floor level.  Presentation by the employee problems to the foreman or supervisor who would listen to the employee and record the facts of the problem. The supervisor should settle the problem within three (3) days. If the employee is not satisfied, proceed to step 2.

Step 2.  Plant level. Discussion of the problem between the employee, the supervisor, and the department manager takes place. If no satisfactory solution within seven days, proceed to step 3.

Step 3. Top level. Discussion of the problem between the supervisors, the department manager, the complainant, and top management (President or General Manager). If no satisfactory solution within ten (10) days, proceed to step 4.

Step 4. Arbitrator’s level.  The problem or case may be taken to voluntary arbitration for final decision.


Characteristics of Effective Grievance Machinery

  1. The successive steps in the procedure, the method of presenting grievances or disputes, and the method of taking an appeal from one step to another should be so clearly stated in the agreement as to be readily understood by all employees, union officials and  management representatives.
  2. The procedure should be adaptable to the handling of various types of grievances and disputes, which come under the terms of the agreement.
  3. The procedure should be designed to facilitate the settlement of grievances and disputes as soon as possible after the arise. To this end:
  • The agreement should provide adequate stated time limits for the presentation of grievances and disputes, thus rendering of decisions, and the taking of appeals.


  • Issues should be clearly formulated at the earliest possible moment. In all cases, which cannot be settled in the first informal discussions, the positions of both sides should be reduced to writing.


  • Management and union should encourage their representatives to settle at the lower steps grievances, which do not involve broad questions or policy, or of contract interpretation and should delegate sufficient authority to them to accomplish this end.


  • Provision should be made for priority handling of grievances involving discharge, suspension, or other disciplinary action.


  1. The procedure should be open to the submission of grievances by all parties to the agreement.