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We have had an incident where union workers in a trade were supposedly advised by their union hall to not converse with the only non-union guy from that is from their trade on the same shift. Our HR policy is that systematic exclusion is a form of bullying and so some action must be taken. I've talked to my boss and we are switching the excluded guy to a shift with others from the same contractor but are not taking action against the excluders because in the end it is a he said/she said situation. We have reached a resolution in this situation but I'm wondering how to avoid it in the future.

We had a situation where people are being needlessly cruel to someone for being a non-member of their group. In this circumstance we did not have enough evidence to take action against his antagonists. In your opinion how can I prevent situations of this nature from recurring in the future?

Was it an error mixing union and non-union workers to begin with? When in a mixed union/non-union shop what are some strategies to prevent friction between the groups?

  • Why would there be a problem with union members mixing with no union members in the workplace? You have already decided how to handle this incedent so its unclear what help you are seeking from us – IDrinkandIKnowThings Sep 25 '15 at 16:58
  • @Chad They may have fixed the problem this time but maybe it won't work the next time. It could also potentially be an issue in the future having to keep union and non union members seperate. – Resistance Sep 25 '15 at 17:13
  • @TStauff But I still do not understand the problem in the first place. It is not very clear to me from the question. Why is there an issue? What are the issues they are having? What is the problem caused by not communicating with this non union person? – IDrinkandIKnowThings Sep 25 '15 at 17:28
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    The issue of bullying is related to the fact that in some unions they don't like that there are non-union workers. They would like to be able to force those non-unions members to either leave the job, or join the union. – mhoran_psprep Sep 25 '15 at 17:48
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    @Chad So the question is how do we deal with a non existant situation? We had a situation where people are being needlessly cruel to someone for being a non-member of their group. In this circumstance we did not have enough evidence to take action against his antagonists. In your opinion how can I prevent situations of this nature from recurring in the future? Is itstill unclear what I'm asking? – anon Sep 26 '15 at 0:20
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Mixed.

A lot of it is the attitude of the union. Unions are territorial.

I worked in a refinery as staff and we interacted with union all the time. When it came time for union to re-negotiate a contract we would just keep a polite distance. As staff if they went out on strike we would be their replacement. Even good friends of mine would not address me at work.

HR should meet with the union rep. Tell them straight don't know if it is true or not but it is considered bullying.

Telling union people how to behave is problematic. But, you can educate the non-union. Tell them it could be a hostile environment. Don't engage the union in a negative manner even if they start it. Bring any issue to management. Management should notify the union rep. The union rep needs to be informed good or bad - they hate surprises.

It was not an error mixing but you should have seen this coming. One guy? Pick two or more and pick some of your better people. If there is an altercation you need a non-union witness as you are likely to get one story from the union. Have management around the first few days. In this case I would not inform the union rep as you don't need their permission.

  • There were some valid non controversial comments deleted. Why? – paparazzo Jan 8 '16 at 17:30
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In your opinion how can I prevent situations of this nature from recurring in the future?

Was it an error mixing union and non-union workers to begin with? When in a mixed union/non-union shop what are some strategies to prevent friction between the groups?

Don't play politics and don't second-guess people. It's perfectly possible for workplaces with both union members and non-union members to get on fine.

Depending on where you work, assigning people into groups based on their membership of a union (or non-membership) may not be legal and could lay you open to claims from either group. Even keeping track of other people's union membership can land you in serious legal trouble. Assign people based on the job, their skills and ensuring everyone has the opportunities to develop.

It sounds like there is probably a deeper issue than just an overzealous union branch or a combative or oversensitive non-member. We can't tell you what, though. I am assuming from the way you write you are a senior manager and not yourself a union member. Consider: How is your relationship with the union? Do you regularly consult with the reps? Do you keep them informed? Do you listen to them? Can you go to them with problems? Remember that this relationship, like any other, needs time and work to build trust.

If you want to know what to do in future, start by having a conversation with the union reps. Approach them with a view to learn and to reach agreement, not to tell the union off or tell them what to do. Be open that you're concerned about bullying and want assurances. Remember that reps are servants of the members, not managers; they may need to go back to their members to sound them out further on ideas or questions.

Maintaining that channel of communication will help you respond to potential problems before they become real ones. There is no shortcut to good industrial relations.

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I'll just offer this suggestion, but with the caveat that I don't know much about unions...

To me, this is an issue of reiterating your company policy against discrimination and bullying, and doing it clearly and often. I would expect that if something like this happened at my office, we would get emails and have mandatory "townhall" meetings, and/or have additional training we'd need to complete. It might also be a good idea to speak with the union rep, and make sure that they understand your policy and that compliance is non-negotiable (if that's possible), and that they need to implement certain training as well.

You cannot stop people from disliking others based on characteristics that are somewhat uncontrollable - meaning, people will continue to do stupid things. But, you can make it clear that there are serious negative consequences for stupid behavior, and that's basically my advice.

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