Management and Union Negotiations

Both union and management send a negotiating team to the bargaining table, and both teams usually go into the bargaining sessions having does their homework. Union representatives will have sounded out union members on their desires and conferred with representatives of related unions.

Management uses several techniques to prepare for bargaining. First, it prepares the data on which to build its bargaining position. It compiles data on pay benefits that include comparisons with local rates and to rates paid for similar jobs within the industry. Data on the distribution of the workforce (in terms of age, sex, and seniority, for instance) are also important, because these factors determine what the company will actually pay out in benefits. Internal economic data regarding cost of benefits, overall earning levels, and the amount and cost of overtime are important as well.

Bargaining Items:

Labor law sets out categories of items that are subject to bargaining. These are mandatory, voluntary, and illegal items.

Voluntary (or permissible) bargaining items are neither mandatory nor illegal; they become a part of negotiations only through the joint agreement of both management and union. Neither party can compel the other to negotiate over voluntary items. You cannot hold up signing a contract because to other party refuses to bargain on a voluntary item.

Illegal bargaining items are forbidden by law. A clause agreeing to hire union members exclusively would be illegal in a right-to-work state, for example.

Some of the 70 or so mandatory bargaining items, over which bargaining is mandatory under the law. They include wages, hours, rest periods, layoffs, transfers, benefits and severance pay. Others, such as drug testing, are added as the law evolves.

Bargaining Stages:

The actual bargaining typically goes through several stages. First, each side presents its demands. At this stage both parties are usually quiet far apart on some issues. Second, there is a reduction of demands. At this stage, each side trades off some of its demands to gain others. Third comes the subcommittee studies; the parties form joint subcommittees to try to work out reasonable alternatives. Fourth, the parties reach an informal settlement and each group goes back to its sponsor. Union representatives check informally with their superiors and the union members; management representative check with top management. Finally, once everything is in order, the parties fine-tune and sign a formal agreement

Bargaining Hints:

1. Be sure to set clear objectives for every bargaining item, and be sure you understand the reason for each.
2. Do not hurry
3. When in doubt, consult with your associates
4. Be well prepared with firm data supporting your position.
5. Always strive to keep some flexibility in your position
6. Don’t concern yourself with what the other party says and does; find out why.
7. Respect the importance of face saving for the other party.
8. Be alert to the real intentions of the other party not only for goals, but also for priorities.
9. Be a good listener
10. Build a reputation for being fair but firm.
11. Learn to control your emotions and use as a tool.
12. As you make each bargaining move, be sure you know its relationship to all other moves.
13. Measure each move against your objectives
14. Pay close attention to the wording of every clause negotiated; they are often a source of grievances
15. Remember that collective bargaining is a compromise process. There is no such thing as having all the pie.
16. Try to understand people and their personalities
17. Consider the impact of present negotiations on those in future years.