(NOTE: The following are only suggested steps. The labor contract always applies.)
1. Presentation of claim or grievance in first instance
(a) By individual member or crew,
The first step is the presenting of the claim or grievance by the aggrieved person. It should be noted, however, a Local Chairperson can file a claim or grievance on behalf of an individual without consent of the individual involved, if such Local Chairperson believes the agreement is being violated. Most, if not all, time limit rules read in part, "all claims or grievances must be presented in writing by or on behalf of the employee involved..." This point or provision emphasizes the need to recognize all claims or grievances are designed primarily to protect the contract. A claim for a violation should be for eight (8) hours or one (1) basic day.
2. Get the facts clearly and comprehensively stated
Lack of facts, or a conflict or error in the facts, can defeat a claim. See First Division Awards 19337, 19456, 19603, 19684 and 19774.
The claim or grievance must include the specific facts involved and state the schedule rules to support the claim. The claim is then submitted to the carrier in the normal and usual manner of submitting time claims. A copy of the claim or grievance and all supporting documentation should be retained by the claimant, or Local Chairperson.
Under the time limit on claims rule, all claims or grievances must be presented in writing by or on behalf of the employee involved within a stated amount of time, which is set forth in the collective bargaining agreement on each property. To avoid losing a claim because of delay in filing, the day on which the violation(s) or grievance(s) occurred should be counted as day number one.
3. Claim is either allowed or rejected
Obviously, the claim or grievance is either allowed or disallowed within a stipulated time period set forth in the collective bargaining agreement on the property. The carrier is required to decline the claim in writing, setting forth the reasons for declining the claim. If the claim is disallowed, the employee should refer such time claim to the Local Chairperson immediately after receiving the rejection notice from the carrier. Should the carrier fail to decline the claim within the stipulated time limit, the claim or grievance is then considered valid. However, settlement of a claim on this basis cannot be considered as a precedent or as a waiver of the rights of the railroad on similar claims in the future. If denied, the claim should be given to the Local Chairperson, along with any and all information relating to the claim.
4. Appeal to the designated officer of the carrier
On most railroads, the Local Chairperson would normally appeal the claim or grievance to the superintendent. However, with the changing structure in the railroad industry, on some railroads this may no longer be the case. Each Local Chairperson should be aware of the designated carrier representative to whom they must make their initial appeal. The appeal must be made within the stipulated time limit set forth in the collective bargaining agreement.
Each claim or grievance should be identified by number. The file identification system should be decided by the General Committee of Adjustment. It is suggested that a code be set up which would contain the local number, a symbol to identify the craft, i.e., E, F, C,T&Y, the number of the claim or grievance, and the year. In addition, a copy of the appeal should be sent to the claimant and a copy retained on file with the Local Chairperson.
What should the appeal letter contain? Essentially three things:
1. Statement of claim - The particular agreement provision upon which the claim or grievance is being made should be clearly stated. The name of the claimant and date of occurrence should also be included.
2. Statement of facts involved in the case - This would include names, dates, location of occurrence, train number and engine number, etc.
3. The employee's position should be clearly stated, setting forth all relevant arguments and evidence, submitted in exhibit form, quoting the agreement or rules involved, if any.
The decision of the carrier officer should be rendered within the stipulated time limit set forth in the collective bargaining agreement. If the claim or grievance is disallowed by the carrier officer within the time limit, and his/her decision is to be appealed, the Local Chairperson should notify the carrier officer in writing that the decision is not acceptable. The Local Chairperson may want to request a conference on the claim on the local level. This should be done in writing, and in the letter, the Local Chairperson should request a waiver of all time limits until such time as a conference is held. Should the carrier fail to agree to a waiver of the time limits in writing, the Local Chairperson should send the claim or grievance to the General Chairperson, so that he/she may continue handling within the stipulated time limits.
Claims or grievances must be conferenced before they can be taken to arbitration. On receipt of notice of a desire on the part of either party to confer, the parties must specify a time and place at which such conference shall be held. The Railway Labor Act does not specify at what stage of handling claims or grievances a conference must be held. This requirement of the Act is usually at the time the claim or grievance is handled by the General Chairperson and the highest officer of the carrier, but it is not necessarily limited thereto. The time limits governing the holding of conferences run concurrently with the time limits specified in the Time Limits on Claims Rule of the collective bargaining agreement, and do not in any way alter, change, or extend those time limits without an agreement to that effect between the parties.
It is recommended that notice of conference is made in accordance with Section 2, Sixth of the Railway Labor Act at the same time the claim or grievance is appealed. This will ensure the conference will be held within the stipulated time limit in which the carrier officer has to render a decision on the claim or grievance. If the time claim is not settled, the carrier officer to which the appeal was filed, must reject the appeal in writing within the time limit provisions to the Local Chairperson.
6. Appeal To the General Chairperson for further handling.
Should the Local Chairperson be unsuccessful in resolving the claim or grievance on the local level, then it will be necessary to forward the claim and/or grievance to the General Chairperson. The Local Chairperson must advise the carrier officer rejecting the appeal that the decision is unacceptable, and that the time claim will be appealed by the General Committee for further handling under the provisions of the agreement. This should be done without delay so the General Chairperson is able to hand the appeal to the highest carrier officer within the time limits stipulated in the collective bargaining agreement.
In forwarding the file to the General Chairperson, the Local Chairperson should include, but not be limited to, the following:
a. Copy of service time slip.
The Local Chairperson should appeal separate time claims for each violation, except where such time claims are identical in nature and facts. All files should contain the latest correspondence at the top of the file, building the file from the oldest piece of correspondence upward. When forwarding the file to the General Chairperson, the Local Chairperson should maintain a copy of the complete file.
7. Appeal to the highest carrier officer.
This step is the appeal by the General Chairperson to the highest designated carrier officer, which must be made within the stipulated time limit. The time limit starts from receipt of first notice of disallowance by the local carrier officer. This normally is the date stamped on the rejection slip. In the appeal, the General Chairperson should state specifically, "the following claim or grievance is being appealed from the decision of the local carrier officer (superintendent)", and set forth in the appeal the statement of claim, statement of facts, and the organization's position.
8. Final Conference with Carrier.
If the highest carrier officer denies this appeal, the General Chairperson should again notify the carrier in writing that the decision is not acceptable. At this time, the General Chairperson should request a conference to handle the claim further.
At this conference, the General Chairperson should have on hand not only all of the facts in the case, but also a knowledge of procedures and settlements on the property, Awards of the National Railroad Adjustment Board, Public Law Board Awards, and decisions of any committee (or tribunal) on the same or similar issues which will support the claim. The Railway Labor Act requires at least one oral conference be held on the property before a case can be listed for arbitration. The time limit for initiation of the request for conference is set forth in the collective bargaining agreement.
Until this point the appellate procedure must be made in strict accordance with the applicable time limits. Should the organization fail to make a timely appeal or reply at any one of several steps, the case is considered "dead on time limits," and may not be pursued further by either party. If the carrier fails to respond timely to any of the required written appeals, • agreements require the claim be allowed regardless of the merits. If the claim is not settled in conference and the organization wishes to pursue the case further, the final step is arbitration.
The highest designated carrier officer must render a written decision on the results of the conference, again within the stipulated time limit. If the carrier officer again denies the claim, the General Chairperson should notify the carrier officer the decision is not acceptable and that proceedings are being instituted before a tribunal having jurisdiction pursuant to law or agreement. The date of the initial decision rendered by the highest carrier officer, either prior to conference or following a conference, normally establishes the initial date of the time limit within which to progress the claim to the First Division of the National Railroad Adjustment Board or to a Public Law Board. Most agreements require that the claim or grievance must be handled by a tribunal no later than six (6) months from the highest designated carrier officer's decision.
Normally after a claim conference, the General Chairperson will wish to progress several denied cases to arbitration. In order to do so, the organization may appeal the matter directly to the National Railroad Adjustment Board or a mutual agreement may be reached with the carrier to establish a Special Board of Adjustment or the organization may simply request a Public Law Board be established.