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Waiving Timelines? Get It In Writing

You've worked hard to reach a collective bargaining agreement that serves your members' needs. Don't risk those benefits by missing deadlines. If you need more time, ask your labor relations representative for an extension, and get it in writing.

Nothing derails a grievance arbitration quicker than a missed deadline.

Most grievance procedures in collective bargaining agreements have specific steps or levels that both labor and management must follow to settle disputes. We know that, in the real world of labor-management relations, parties often take a loose approach to these deadlines. But that is a major mistake.

If the dispute cannot be resolved at the lowest level, then it is critical that the parties follow the step procedures exactly as they are written in the contract. Otherwise, one party can move to dismiss the grievance before the underlying issue ever gets heard by an arbitrator. Missing a deadline, or skipping a grievance step, can be fatal to a grievance.

That's not the end of the story, of course. Our attorneys have successfully overcome numerous motions to dismiss by proving that the parties agreed to set aside those deadlines or steps.

How do you prove that the deadlines have been waived? By making sure that you document every conversation and meeting you have on the grievance. This means that if your employer or union has agreed to waive a step or a deadline, you need to get that agreement in writing. Keep track of every e-mail, memorandum, or letter, and take notes after any meeting or phone call. That way, you will always have proof of the waiver.

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