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August 2003     Vol. 4, no. 8

Unionization and the grievance system

Ernest B. Akyeampong

  • Approximately half of all employees covered by the Workplace and Employee Survey had access to a workplace grievance system in 1999. The accessibility rate among unionized workers (85%) was much higher than among non-unionized workers (35%).
  • The likelihood of having a grievance system increased with establishment size—44% of small firms (under 20 employees) compared with 95% of large firms (over 500).
  • About 11% of employees with access to a system filed a grievance in 1999. The overall filing rate of unionized workers, who have more access, scarcely differed from that of non-unionized workers.
  • Grievance resolution through a manager/supervisor or management committee was more common for non-unionized workers; for unionized workers, more formal settlement mechanisms (labour-management committee, outside arbitration) were more common.
  • About 6 in 10 persons filing a grievance in 1999 perceived some improvement in their post-grievance situation—about 7 in 10 non-unionized workers and 5 in 10 unionized workers.
  • About 91% of workers with grievance privileges indicated they were satisfied or very satisfied with their overall job, and 77% said the same with respect to pay and benefits. For those without access, the corresponding percentages were slightly lower, at 88% and 72%.


Ernest B. Akyeampong is with the Labour and Household Surveys Analysis Division. He can be reached at (613) 951-4624 or

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