NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – An industry-adapted best practice facilitates win-win solutions at Fleet Readiness Center Southeast, Jacksonville, Fla., FRCSE labor-management partners told their NAVAIR colleagues recently.
“Employees say they like the process because they feel heard,” said Earl Vinson, Corporate Operations director at FRCSE. “It also helps supervisors become better at their jobs, because they have to explain why they took the action they did.”
Vinson and International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 512 union representatives Mark Andrews and Myra Clark shared the success of their “best practice” grievance panel during NAVAIR’s National Labor Management Partnership Team’s (LMPT) face-to-face meeting at Fleet Readiness Center Southwest, North Island, Calif.
FRCSE uses the grievance panel as the last step in the grievance process with the largest of its five unions, the Teamsters, which represent about 1,200 wage grade employees at FRCSE, Vinson said.
The grievance panel is modeled after similar grievance panels used in the trucking and airline industries, Andrews said.
The panel consists of two labor and two management members, whose objective is to find a win-win solution to the grievances filed. The panel reviews two to four cases monthly, with 75 to 80 percent of the issues resolved there, Vinson said.
“We operate like a mini trial court, where the grievant and the manager each present their side and ask questions of one another,” Vinson said.
Panel members then meet in an executive session to vote on the outcome. The majority vote prevails, but if a deadlock occurs, panel members present issue papers to the commanding officer for final determination.
“In most cases, it works well and results in win-win decisions,” Andrews said, sharing the following case as an example:
A sheet metal mechanic (SMM) was tasked to drill moisture release holes in the skin of an aircraft flap; a process used to prepare the flap prior to being moisture baked. The SMM followed the technical specifications and drilled the moisture release holes.
As the flap processed through various stages of repair, the holes were found to be drilled in the wrong locations. The SMM was suspended for three days for failing to follow technical specifications.
The SMM contacted a union steward and filed a grievance, claiming the suspension was unjust. The steward conducted a thorough investigation, finding that things did not add up. The grievance progressed through the negotiated grievance procedure unresolved until the last step in the process—the grievance panel.
During the panel hearing, the steward proved that the SMM followed his supervisor’s instructions and the technical specifications. The steward was also able to show that this task had been performed several times recently with the same costly mistakes. The grievance panel determined the holes were drilled incorrectly because the technical specifications were incorrect.
“The win-win in this case: the grievance panel decided that the SMM be reimbursed for his lost earnings and the technical specifications were sent for corrections,” Andrews said.
The case histories come in handy.
“We maintain a history of resolutions used to resolve future cases before they reach the final step in the grievance process,” Vinson said.
“This grievance panel discussion generated at the face-to-face meeting is an excellent example of how the LMPT is supposed to work,” said Gary Kurtz, NAVAIR assistant commander, Corporate Operations and Total Force. “Sharing best practices and lessons learned among sites helps identify problems and offers the opportunity to propose solutions to better support NAVAIR’s mission.”
The LMPT serves as a command-level forum to enhance communication, collaboration and the adoption of best practices across NAVAIR’s local labor-management partnerships.
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