Heads of Departments and the Grievance Process

Where do Department Heads fit into QUFA’s Grievance Process?

By Ramneek Pooni (Grievance Officer, QUFA)

Recently QUFA held a Heads’ Caucus meeting. These occur once or twice annually and present the Heads with a chance to air their concerns, ask questions, and generally discuss matters that are peculiar to the jobs they perform. At the last meeting, a question arose as to how the Heads fit into the grievance process and we thought it would be useful to elaborate on this for all Members.

Heads are QUFA Members, but they take on responsibilities and make decisions that are delegated to the position by the Deans. If a Head acts as a result of this delegated authority, those actions are managerial and done on behalf of the University administration. In such a case, if a Head’s actions abrogate the collective agreement and a QUFA Member comes to the union with a complaint or grievance, then QUFA’s obligation is to represent the Member who is not the Head. The Head must look to the Dean for support, not to QUFA, and any formal grievance would be made against the Dean or other senior University administrator (Article 41.6) even though the Head might have a role in the process by providing information.

On the other hand, if the Head has a complaint about the University administration’s abrogation of the collective agreement, whether as a faculty member or as a Head, then QUFA would represent the Head in that complaint or grievance.

In any question of an abrogation of the collective agreement, QUFA’s and Queen’s University’s ultimate responsibility must be to uphold the integrity of the collective agreement. As with any complicated document, there will be questions about what some provisions mean, how some processes should be conducted, and so on. In such cases, some Heads consult with both QUFA and the Faculty Relations Office (Queen’s University’s labour relations contact for QUFA) before making decisions or acting so that they are aware of the issues involved ahead of time. Sometimes it is most sensible for QUFA and Faculty Relations to help a Head by coming to an agreement about how something should be resolved. This sort of collaboration is not uncommon, and Heads should not hesitate to approach QUFA and/or Faculty Relations if they have questions or concerns.

QUFA is very aware of the tricky position Heads find themselves in, caught between union and administration, and would prefer to support them in making decisions that do not invite complaints or grievances.

Ramneek Pooni can be reached at poonir@queensu.ca.

This Grievance Corner was taken from the March-April, 2013 edition of QUFA Voices.