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The nature of the workplace is that from time to time complaints and disputes will arise relative to the application or interpretation of the collective agreement. Every collective agreement therefore contains provisions for a grievance procedure by which a dispute arising between the employer and the union may be resolved.

The grievance process exists to provide a framework to address and ultimately resolve the dispute. Although a collective agreement provides a framework for resolving a grievance, the approach and methodology used while working through the process can make a significant difference in achieving a positive outcome.  

One of the key services Human Resource Managers provide is to support administrative leaders in the development of optimal human resource strategy. This includes acting as a resource in situations involving complaints and disputes and interpretation of collective agreements.  

As a leader, your role in the process exists well before a formal grievance is filed. Once an issue is identified, understanding how to deal with the complaint, where it originates, and how the grievance process may act as an effective problem solving tool, will allow the conversion of conflict into resolution.  

Definition of “Grievance”      Every collective agreement contains grievance machinery. These are procedures identified in a collective agreement to resolve problems that develop in interpretation and or application of the contract.   Grievance is defined as a complaint handled formally through contractually fixed procedures. If unsettled, a grievance may lead to the arbitration process, or a court of competent jurisdiction for a settlement.  Whereas the law uses the term “industrial dispute”, it is mentioned for purposes of clarity and the term should be used interchangeably with the term “grievance” as widely employed in the collective agreement.  

If a grievance is not settled in line with the grievance procedure, it may be referred within specific timelines as defined by the collective agreement to Arbitration. However, the Ghana Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651), (section 154) requires that a problem can only be referred to arbitration if it still remains unresolved “after exhausting any grievance procedure established by [the Collective Agreement]”.

This is of great benefit to both the employer and the union, as arbitration can be very costly, time-consuming, and may delay the day to-day affairs of the department or section and all those involved. However, if the grievance procedure has been followed and resolution has not been achieved, then a single Arbitrator or an Arbitration Panel shall hear and determine the dispute referred to it, and his/her/its decision shall be final and binding upon all parties unless challenged in the Court of Appeal on questions of law within seven days after the publication of the award.       

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