Heated debate is at times inevitable in a political party such as the Greens. We are passionate people who care about our world and how we leave it for generations to come. Sometimes our discussions can lead to tension and we may find ourselves in disagreement.
If this happens, it’s important we clear the air. We often find that if we fail to settle grievances when they arise our problems can linger and fester, causing further trouble down the track. Talking through our differences also develops goodwill and trust, two vital elements in working collaboratively.
This guide has been developed to help members understand the dispute resolution processes outlined in the AGV Constitution and bylaws. It takes you through the steps to resolve differences as amicably as possible.
This process encourages members to try to resolve any problems themselves at the local level before lodging an official complaint with the Disputes Panel.
1. What to do when a problem arises
Step 1 – identify the problem and who is involved
Problem with another member
If your problem is with another member you should initially attempt to resolve the complaint informally by raising your concern with the other party or parties involved in the grievance. This should always be the first step unless your complaint involves allegations of bullying, sexual harassment criminal behaviour or misconduct as defined in By-law 7.
Problem involving the actions of the AGV itself, or a Committee or other body of the AGV
You should first try to resolve any complaint by contacting the Convenor of the Committee involved, or the Convenor of the email list – if the complaint relates to inappropriate email behaviour.
Problem involving an AGV employee
Any complaint concerning an employee of the AGV should be initially discussed with the State Director or the State Convenor.
Problem involving an Elected Representative of the Greens or a member of their staff
You should initially try to resolve the complaint directly by raising your concerns with the elected member, unless you feel uncomfortable in doing so, in which case you may consider raising your concerns with an AGV Office holder. The parties should arrange a discussion to try and informally resolve the complaint preferably within 10 days. To help you plan this discussion, you can use the form included at the end of this document which also includes suggested strategies.
Step 2 – Assisted Resolution
If you do not feel able to raise concerns with the other member(s) or parties involved in a complaint, or if your initial attempts at resolution have been unsuccessful, you may then consider raising your concerns with a more senior Party member or officer, which may be one of the following:
- Branch Convenor;
- Relevant Campaign Committee Convenor;
- State Convenor;
- Standing Committee Convenor;
- State Director;
- Moderator of a social media group.
This can be done by:
Contacting the appropriate person via email or phone call – outlining your concerns and the steps you have already taken to resolve your complaint.
The notification should include:
- The details of the complaint
- Any attempts made to resolve the complaint informally.
- Any response that was provided during or following the attempts at informal resolution
The person contacted may seek to resolve the complaint in a number of ways:
- Making further inquiries into the complaint and/or seeking advice from a number of sources and support people including the Disputes Panel if required;
- Conducting a facilitated discussion and/or making suggestions for resolution
Attempts to resolve disputes at this level should aim to be completed as quickly as possible, preferably within 20 working days.
If you are an Office Bearer or other nominated person involved in trying to resolve member complaints, you can find some guidelines and strategies to help you included in the step by step guide at the end of this document.
Step 3 – Formal Resolution – via the Disputes Panel
If the complaint is still not resolved or you, as the complainant, are dissatisfied with the outcome, you may lodge a formal dispute with the Disputes Panel. Any disputes should be lodged by completing the Disputes Panel Complaints form included as a link at the end of this document.
Chapter 8 of the AGV Constitution and Bylaw 1 are the dispute resolution processes outlined in the AGV Constitution and bylaws (Bylaw 7 Membership Code of Conduct may also be relevant),
2. A helpful guide for resolving my problem with another member
Initially, it is useful to clarify what type of problem you have experienced by looking at the guide below.
Guide to Kinds of Disputes
1. Behavioural or Interpersonal Disputes
This could involve misunderstandings, clashes in personality styles, or where people feel there has been a lack of respect. Such disputes usually respond well to mediation, and it is therefore important that members have tried to resolve such disputes themselves or with some assistance as outlined in this Complaint Resolution Process.
2. Organisational or Rules Disputes
This could involve the actions of constituent groups with the Party, such as State Council, Executive, branches or standing committees. Examples are the conduct of a body, or a few individuals of that body, either not following proper process, or acting beyond the authority of their positions.
3. Political Disputes
Some disputes may be primarily of a political nature where parties may have different goals, or undisclosed political agendas. Disputes arising from differences in political opinions are not ones which fall within the Disputes Panel process. Diversity in political opinion is natural in a political party and should be considered as an asset. The manner in which people express their differences of opinion may, however, be the subject of a grievance procedure.
Clarifying your problem in writing can help you to decide on how you will approach the other person(s) involved in this issue.
The next step is to meet with the other person or people involved. This should be arranged within 10 working days of the problem occurring, so that any issues can be resolved quickly. Prior to the meeting – you should outline for yourself, in writing, what outcomes you would like to achieve.
This could include a range of solutions such as:
- A better understanding on the part of the other person of why you consider their behaviour inappropriate or disrespectful.
- An agreement between you and the other person on how to move forward and avoid any such future situations.
- An apology if it is mutually agreed that the situation warrants it.
As the final step in the informal dispute resolution Process, if this meeting does not resolve the issue to your satisfaction, and you still wish to proceed with the complaints process, you should go to the Assisted Resolution stage (Step 2 above) within 5 working days of the meeting.
3. Vexatious, Malicious or Improper Complaints
While the majority of members seeking to access Complaint Resolution Procedures are motivated by genuine concern about perceived or actual unfair behaviour or actions, on some occasions a complaint may be malicious, vexatious or improper. A vexatious complaint is one which has the intention to harass or annoy, to cause delay or detriment, or is for any other improper purpose.
Where there are reasonable grounds to believe that an individual has invoked the Dispute Procedure without good reason or with malicious intent or otherwise vexatiously, the individual may be subject to action under the AGV’s disciplinary procedures.
4. Notice of Dispute
This form is to be used to lodge a formal notification of Dispute. This should only be completed once all reasonable steps have been taken to resolve the dispute directly with the other party. Please consult the two step informal Complaint Resolution process suggested above which outlines the steps involved.
As a guide to assist members, please indicate which of the following steps have been taken:
- you have attempted to resolve the dispute directly with the other person or AGV body;
- if you have been unable to resolve the dispute directly, you have sought assistance from relevant persons such as outlined in Step 2;
- you have taken steps to identify that this dispute meets the criteria required to be considered by the Disputes Panel.
5. Sexual Harassment Policy
Every employee, member, volunteer and supporter of the Greens has a right to participate in Greens spaces and events without being subjected to any form of sexual harassment, intimidation or assault.
That’s why we have been working together to develop resources, training and policies to make sure our party is a safe and supportive place for all of our members and volunteers.
It is the obligation and responsibility of every member of our organisation to ensure that the workplace, and our party activities, are free from sexual harassment.
We have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment.