Contact the NSO Vice-President for Program for Inquries
The National Staff Organization Executive Committee has developed a process that could be used by NSO affiliates for resolving internal problems that occur between associate and professional staff members in the workplace. The process is similar to the “quality of work life” models that have appeared within the private sector.
All Too Often…
All too often it takes a dispute between individuals in a bargaining unit or a grievance filed by one person (in one bargaining unit) with another person (in another bargaining unit) to emphasize the need for a “process” to assist in resolving day-to-day workplace problems. All too often such problems expand beyond the individuals primarily associated with the dispute to other groups within the workplace. After all, the workplace consists of a collection of informal groups, of which each of us are participants.
Many of us recognize the organization for which we work is a very dynamic, changing and developing in structure. As a by-product, attitudes, disputes, grievances are more likely to occur. This seems to be more true with our employer where they (managers) are overly preoccupied with new techniques, new staffing plans, flow charts, “Who controls whom” issues.
Employers Can’t Do It…
It has been our experience that almost all employers have no vehicle for addressing in meaningful terms such problems that occur in the workplace between associate and professional staff and their employer. Reasons vary. In some respects, some managers look for any opportunity to undermine relationships, either within or between unions. The result creates greater controversy, low morale and polarization among employees. In other respects, some managers have not observed the workplace with an eye toward improving work environment quality. Sometimes, our own members have a parochial view of how to deal with each other.
NSO Can Provide Solutions…
NSO affiliates can look to a solution. First, there needs to be a strong commitment on all sides to create a positive environment. It would be preferable to have employers involved. However, we believe unions made up of associate and professional staff can take the
initiative — and have a positive impact on work environment. The “process” with the most reasonable chance for success for resolving inter- and intra-union problems follows:
The objective is to set an atmosphere of mutual trust, sincerity and integrity and to provide the best possible working environment for members of a bargaining unit. Consistent with the objective is that such a process must establish and maintain effective two-way communication. Such communication should occur outside of the grievance procedure.
- Union leadership, or members within local unions, should assess their internal problems, and determine whether such problems could be addressed on a joint basis by and between representatives of the staff.
Such a meeting can be activated by either group by placing a phone call to the key leadership. Key leadership are representatives from the respective organizations and at the appropriate time may also include those persons who are directly involved in the dispute. The key leadership must exert strong leadership and a commitment to seek the best solution.
- An informal discussion should occur among key individuals within each group. The focus of the discussion: “Should things continue as they are?”
- Assuming the parties are willing, separate meetings should occur among those key leaders who are considered a part of the problem or a part of the solution. A list of concerns and expectations should be developed.
- A third party neutral, provided locally or through the National Staff Organization, would serve as presiding officer of the meeting and expedite the proceedings to ensure both sides have an equal opportunity to present their views. The neutral could also assist in resolving procedural matters and other conflicts that stand in the way of progress.
- A joint meeting occurs and is intended as non-adversarial, where the key leaders can compare concerns and expectations that were identified when the parties met separately. Afterwards, the groups’ task will be to work together to translate from the two lists, a single list of goals, concerns, expectations and ground rules, if any. Critical at this time is the need to discover common and jointly owned problems.
- The organization that evolves could be an ad-hoc body; meetings scheduled when it is determined a need exists.
- Direct participation of all parties is critical to finding mutually agreeable solutions and build an improved communication.
As stated earlier, this process should allow the joint committee to separate its work from collective bargaining issues. It is not this committee’s function to bargain the contract or to administer the contract. It is, however, permissible and legitimate for the committee to discuss a pattern of events that produce grievances, or discuss interpersonal problems that develop between unions’ members.
NSO INVOLVEMENT . . . Jurisdictional/Internal Disputes
Jurisdictional Dispute Procedures
- Jurisdictional/Internal Dispute — Definition:
A jurisdictional/Internal dispute is hereby defined as any disagreement arising between NSO members within the same unit, NSO members in a different unit within the same state, or any unit determination proceedings occurring within the same state causing one of the parties to the above disagreements to seek assistance from NSO.
- NSO will take no position on the above captioned disputes unless and until one or more parties to the dispute move(s) for NSO assistance.
- Upon receipt of a formal motion for assistance by the moving party(s) to the NSO President, the President will dispatch a member of the NSO Executive Committee to the state within which the dispute arose.
- Should the defending party request assistance — as a result of the moving party’s action — the President shall dispatch an appropriate Professional or Associate staff member from the Executive Committee to consult with the defending party.
- The consulting Executive Committee members shall meet with the officers of the affiliates in dispute and shall attempt to resolve the dispute through a process of mediation. He/she shall also issue a report on the nature, apparent causes, current status of and recommended solution to the dispute. Such reports and recommendations shall be based, where applicable, on existing NSO policy. Reporting Executive Committee members may also make recommendations regarding new NSO policy or alterations to existing policy for Executive Committee/RA consideration.
- Upon receipt of the reports, the President shall confer with the Regional Director from the affected region and shall notify the Executive Committee of the jurisdictional dispute.
- The President and Regional Director shall jointly determine if the Dispute Resolution Team (DRT) should be appointed. If the President and Regional Director disagree, the matter will be placed before the Executive Committee via telecommunications link, for determination.
- If a DRT is to be appointed, the President shall activate that procedure within 48 hours of the decision to appoint. The Executive Committee member from the affected region shall be a member of the DRT unless that Regional Director is also an officer of one of the involved parties. In that case, the Regional Director of a contiguous region or an At- Large Director shall be appointed.
- The DRT shall arrange to visit the parties within the state affected, within 21 days of the President’s/Executive Committee decision to activate the DRT.
- The DRT shall jointly and separately meet with the officers and selected members of the various units of the various units in dispute and carry out the interview process.
- The DRT shall remain on site for no more than 48 hours. Upon completion of the interview process, they shall issue a joint report to the President, who shall distribute it to the Executive Committee. The report shall include the findings of fact, contentions of the parties, applicable policies of NSO and recommendations for resolution of the dispute.
- The report shall be placed on the agenda for the next regularly scheduled Executive Committee meeting for discussion and possible action.
- Following action by the Executive Committee, the President shall notify the parties to the dispute of the action of the Executive Committee and shall offer further assistance to both parties, if necessary, in carrying out the resolution.
- The President and Regional Director shall maintain a liaison with the parties in dispute and shall report on the progress of the parties at the next regularly scheduled Executive Committee meeting.
Hopefully, through the development of a new level of inter- and intra-union trust, a specific problem may be resolved. One caveat is that the parties to this arrangement must recognize that trust levels are such that it may not yet turn around a specific relationship that may have been going “sour” for a long time. Anyone that has been involved in any problem- solving model knows it requires more perseverance to create a “win-win” relationship than a “win-lose” one. All too often, it is easier for individuals to set up roadblocks rather than explore new avenues of communications and seek mutually agreeable solutions. Time and effort are necessary if this collaborative approach to problem solving is to be successful.
If we are to develop in the workplace an atmosphere of mutual trust, and provide the best possible working environment, we must establish such a process. Given a chance, the “process” outlined here will provide us that opportunity.