Characteristics of collective bargaining


The main characteristics of collective bargaining are:

1. It is a group action as opposed to individual action and is initiated through the representatives of workers. On the management side are its delegates at the bargaining table; on the side of the workers is their trade union, which may represent the local plant, the city membership or nation-wide membership.

2. It is flexible and mobile, and not fixed or static. It has fluidity and scope for compromise, for a mutual give-and-take before the final agreement is reached or the final settlement is arrived at.

Essentially, a successful collective bargaining is an exercise in graceful retreat without seeming to retreat. The parties normally ask for more or offer less than they ultimately accept or give. The “take-it-or-leave it� proposition is not viewed as being within the rules of the game. One of the most damaging criticisms is that a party is adamant in holding to its original position. Before retreating with as much elegance as circumstances permit, each party seeks to withdraw as little as possible.

This involves ascertaining the maximum concession of the opposing negotiator without disclosing one’s own ultimate concession. In this sense, all negotiations are exploratory until the agreement is consummated.

3. It is a two-party process:
It is a mutual give-and-take rather than a take-it-or-leave-it method of arriving at the settlement of a dispute. Both parties are involved in it. Collective bargaining can work only with the acceptance by labor and management of their appropriate responsibilities . It can succeed only when both labor and management want it to succeed. It can flourish only in an atmosphere which is free from animosity and reprisal. There must be attitudes which will result in harmony and progress.

4. It is industrial democracy at work: Industrial democracy is the government of labor with the consent of the governed—the workers. The principle of arbitrary unilateralism has given way to that of self-government in industry.

Collective bargaining is not a mere signing of an agreement granting seniority, vacation and wage increases. It is not a mere sitting around a table, discussing grievances.

Basically, it is democratic:

It is a joint formulation of company policy on all matters which directly affect the workers in a plant. It is self-government in action. It is the projection of a management policy which gives the workers the right to be heard. It is the establishment of factory law based on common interest.

5. Collective bargaining is not a competitive process but it is essentially a complementary process, i.e. each party needs something that the other party has, namely, labor can make a greater productive effort and management has the capacity to pay for that effort and to organize and guide it for achieving its objectives.