Collective bargaining is a method by which trade unions protect and improve the conditions of their members working lives. Collective bargaining brings the employer and the employees around one table to discuss and settle many contentious issues effectively. It enables both the parties to know each other and their views, and to define their rights and obligations regarding terms of employment, working conditions, etc., through negotiations, discussions and bargains. Collective bargaining enables to conduct negotiations about working conditions and terms of employment between an employer and a group of employees or one or more employees’ organization with a view to reaching an agreement wherein the terms serve as a code of defining the rights and obligations of each party in their employment relations with one another; fix a large number of detailed conditions of employment; and during its validity, none of the matters, it deals with, can in normal circumstances be given as a ground for a dispute concerning an industrial worker.
There are two stages in collective bargaining, viz., (i) the negotiation stage and (ii) the stage of contract administration.
1. Negotiation Stage
- Identification of Problem: The nature of the problem influences whole process. Whether the problem is very important that is to be discussed immediately or it can be postponed for some other convenient time, whether the problem is minor that it can be solved with the other party’s acceptance on its presentation and does not need to involve long process of collective bargaining process etc. It also influences selection of representatives, their size, period of negotiations and period of agreement that is reached ultimately. As such it is important for both the parties to be clear about the problem before entering into the negotiations.
- Preparing for Negotiations: When it becomes necessary to solve the problem through collective bargaining process, both the parties prepare themselves for negotiations. The preparation starts with selection of representatives. Such representatives should be selected who can carry out negotiations with patience, composure and who can present their view effectively. After selection they should be fed with complete problem and its pros and cons. His powers and authority during negotiations also should be clearly spelt out. Other preparations include fixing up time for negotiations, period of negotiations etc. But once the parties enter into negotiations the period of negotiations may vary depending upon circumstances.
- Negotiations of Agreement: Usually there will be a chief negotiator who is from management side. He directs and presides the process. The chief negotiator presents the problem, its intensity and nature and the views of both the parties. Then he allows the representatives of both the parties to present their views. During negotiations, the representatives should be attentive as to find out what the other party is arguing for. The representatives tend to think about what counter arguments they can present and how to say ‘no’ effectively, while the other party is presenting its own views. This is a major obstacle in the bargaining process. By understanding their problems and weighing them, sometimes a better solution may be reached, which is more acceptable to both the parties. So, it is important that representatives should reach negotiating table with positive attitudes. When a solution is reached at, it is put on the paper taking concerned legislations into consideration. Both the parties concerned sign the agreement which, in turn, becomes a binding contract for both the parties.
2. Contract Administration
Implementation of the contract is as important as making a contract. Management usually distributes the printed contract, its terms and conditions throughout organization. The union takes steps to see that all the workers understand the contract and implement it. From time to time depending upon changing circumstances, both the parties can make mutually acceptable amendments.