Often when Union members evaluate the value of their Teamsters' contract, they give heavy consideration to the economic package guaranteed in the agreement.
Granted the economics are a very important component of your contract, but should it be the first consideration?
Union workers have great job protection - rarely will anyone dispute that fact - but what provisions in a contract actually provide these protections? (Hint: If you look in your contract under “great job protection” you will not find it.)
The job protections in our contracts are found in language related to just cause, grievance procedures and layoff/recall rights. The most important and protective language in your collective bargaining agreement is your just cause protection.
In 1966, an Arbitrator, Professor Carroll Daughterty, expanded these principles into seven tests for just cause. The concepts encompassed within his seven tests are still frequently used by arbitrators when deciding discipline cases.
- Was the employee forewarned of the consequences of his or her actions? (Progressive and corrective action)
- Are the employer's rules reasonably related to business efficiency and performance the employer might reasonably expect from the employee? (reasonable rules)
- Was an effort made before discipline or discharge to determine whether the employee was guilty as charged?(was there an investigation)
- Was the investigation conducted fairly and objectively?
- Did the employer obtain substantial evidence of the employee's guilt? (Burden of proof)
- Were the rules applied fairly and without discrimination?(no desperate treatment)
- Was the degree of discipline reasonably related to the seriousness of the employee's offense and the employee's past record? (Punishment fit the crime)
Now please understand that there are offences that could warrant termination without prior warning that, if proven, do meet the tests of just cause (fighting in the workplace, intoxication on the job, theft, etc.).
Just cause protects you because it mandates that you are aware of the rules, the rules are reasonable, discipline is progressive and corrective, and the burden of proof is on the employer. It is important to know and enforce your contract and I hope this helps, just know that because you are protected by “just cause” you cannot disciplined/discharged “just cuz”.
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