Collective Bargaining: Giving Voice to Employee Union Negotiations

Collective Bargaining - Employee Union Negotiations

Last month, the City of Winnipeg in Canada, created quite a furor over employee union negotiations.

The City has rejected the proposal from Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) on the grounds that it has provided an alternative proposal that serves the interests of the workers. From general wage increase in recovery timings for bus operators, proposals for the bargaining process have it all.

Collective bargaining has long been a debated issue. When coupled with employee negotiations, it may pose problems if you do not know what it entails. This post aims to shed light on the matter of collective bargaining, employee negotiations, and the role HR managers can play in the same.

Read on to know more about how you can play a significant role in employee negotiations as an HR manager.

Collective bargaining: what it is

Merriam-Webster defines collective bargaining as a form of negotiation between employees (or a labor union) and employers on matters like benefits, wages, working hours and conditions, and compensations. It is a part of the labor contract negotiations that work towards ensuring better working conditions and wages for all workers under a labor union.

Employers and labor unions usually come to a common ground through drafting an agreement between the two parties. The agreement lays out the terms and conditions of employment as per the agreed matters during the negotiation process. These agreements can last between two and five years.

Collective bargaining: primary features

  • Collective bargaining between labor unions and employers at the corporate level falls under a specialized area of general negotiations.
  • However, the underlying legal and workplace relationships (and hierarchy) set collective bargaining apart from the rest.
  • While business and lawsuit negotiations are regulated by statutory provisions, collective bargaining is regulated by external laws, some of which include labor laws and policies of a particular nation.
  • Employees select exclusive bargaining agents (or union spokespersons) to carry out the bargaining process with the employers. 
  • Collective bargaining negotiations generally concern themselves with defining and revising wages, working hours, and working conditions.
  • Collective bargaining with labor unions may initiate from the union members taking part in peaceful strikes, picketing, demonstration and other collected concerted activity as is their right within the state and federal legislature.

Factors of collective bargaining: the prerequisites

  • Collective bargaining includes factors unique to the elements of negotiations, such as hourly wages, fringe benefits and piecework rates.
  • Additionally, collective bargaining also includes factors such as healthcare compensation, pension and proper working conditions for the employees.
  • Drawn-out employee negotiations can often take weeks, or even months, to reach a satisfactory resolution of the matters. 
  • Factors like corporations conceding to employees’ immediate demands to serve bigger interests should also be considered when taking part in collective bargaining. 
  • Pre-negotiation preparation on the part of the management is imperative when you are trying to come up with the factors of collective bargaining. Labor unions and management negotiators should always consider having a peaceful and rational meeting whenever trying to come up with better terms for the employees.
  • Ascertaining priorities such as the desirable course of action, lower value issues, and trading terms are also important when drafting up negotiations for collective bargaining.
  • Some negotiators like to pick up less significant issues first to begin the negotiation with a positive spirit, looking to mitigate conflicts along the way. For some, getting more controversial issues out of the way, in the beginning, is a favorable option. 
  • Focusing on the joint gains for employees and employers allows room for a psychological commitment to the entire process for both the parties involved. This makes moving on to more controversial terms a tad easier when the pressure is relieved to some extent.
  • Work stoppages can also be a factor during employee negotiations through collective bargaining. While the production takes a hit due to work stoppages, employers may, at times, have to get to the bottom of the matter for coming up with better terms for the employees so as to resume work as soon as they possibly can.

Employee negotiations and collective bargaining: the role of HR managers

Collective bargaining is a process that involves negotiations and discussions between two groups. It involves drafting and redrafting of offers and counteroffers, proposals and counter-proposals, and other forms of negotiations.

As you can well imagine, the corporate structure calls for the prompt action of HR managers in such cases. HR managers have it hard for them must safeguard the company’s interests as well as make sure the employees get the recognition and perks they deserve.

Their roles are of utmost importance in employee negotiations through collective bargaining. HR managers have the following responsibilities during an employee negotiation situation. These are the 10 ways to motivate your employees.

  • Setting up meetings at convenient places at convenient times that suit the interests of both the employers and the employees.
  • Responding to the requests of the labor union for relevant and updated information about current working conditions, hourly wages, and so on.
  • Setting up transparency when looking through requests from the labor union to elect (a) representative(s) for the collective bargaining process.
  • Conveying the must-have elements of the bargaining process, such as wages, benefits, terms, and conditions of employment, discipline, and the like. 
  • Making sure that no labor laws, state dictum or company rules are violated during the entire process of employee negotiations through collective bargaining.
  • Putting forward their valuable suggestions whenever needed while moderating the employee negotiation process, especially regarding labor laws that may confound many.
  • Deciding on the crucial matter of the proposed duration of the employee negotiation process through collective bargaining. Sometimes, HR managers also have to decide and implement the terms and conditions of the same, depending on the circumstances. 
  • HR managers must also have a clear understanding of production levels. A decrease or increase of the same can affect the hourly wages and other monetary benefits for the workers.
  • Finally, HR managers must help the two parties in the negotiation to arrive at a common ground. They must keep the company’s interests in mind, all the while ensuring that the employees are satisfied with the renewed terms and conditions following the collective bargaining updates through employee negotiations.

Summing it up

Collective bargaining opens up possibilities of a more secure future for the employees. Taking part in the employee negotiations also shows accountability and responsibility on the employers’ parts. As an HR manager, our roles should be to make way for better employee negotiations and collective bargaining.

Sometimes, the process may take longer than expected. If you have insights to add to this post on collective bargaining, feel free to share the same in the comments!

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