The Negotiating Team

Both union and management send a negotiating team to the bargaining table, and both teams usually go into the bargaining sessions having done 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 complies with data on pay and benefits that include comparisons with local pay rates and with 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 earnings levels, ad the amount and cost of overtime are important as well.

Management will also the current labor contract and determine the increased costs – total, per employees and per hour – of the union’s demands If will use information from grievances and feedback form supervisors to determine what the union’s demands might be and prepare counteroffers and arguments . Other people popular tactics are attitude surveys change and informal conferences with local union leaders discuss the operational effectiveness of the contract and to send up trial balloons on management ideas for change, effectiveness of the contract an to send up trial balloons on management ideas for change

Collective bargaining experts emphasize the need to carefully cost the union’s demands.
One says,

The mistake I see most often is [HR professionals who] enter the negotiations without understanding the financial impact of things they put on the table. The thing you give up can make or break your employer. For example the union wants three extra vacation days. That doesn’t sound like a lot, except that in some states if all employees have to carry that liability on their books at all times.

Bargaining Items

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

Voluntary bargaining items

Items in collective bargaining over which bargaining is neither illegal nor mandatory –neither party can be compelled against its wishes to negotiate over those 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 the other party refuses to bargain on a voluntary item. Benefits for retirees might be a example

Illegal bargaining

Items in collective bargaining that are forbidden by law, example a clause agreeing to hire union members exclusively would be illegal in a right to work state.

Illegal bargaining is 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, transfer, 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 quite far apart on some issues. Second, there is a reduction of demands. At this stage each side trades of some of its demands to gain others. Third come the subcommittee studies; the parties from point from joint sub-committees to try to work out reasonable alternatives. Fourth, the parties reach an informal settlement; an each group goes back to its sponsor. Union representatives’ check informally with their superiors and the union members and management representative check with top management. Finally, once everything is in order the parties fine tune and sign a formal agreements.