Collective Bargaining Goals of Trade Unions

Trade unions have a wide range of economic and non-economic goals. All goals of them can not be won in one instance. All collective bargaining goals of trade unions are in conflict with each other since employers are willing to make only limited number of concessions at any particular bargaining session. Therefore, unions have to determine priorities, are five factors which affect the priority of collective bargaining goals.

  1. Economic conditions relevant to the bargaining relationship
  2. Precedent of recent major agreements,
  3. Inter-union rivalry,
  4. Influence of international situation,
  5. Intra-union influence.

The relative importance of these factors varies from one bargaining situation to another.

1. Economic Conditions

The cost of living is used by trade unions as an argument for higher wages during periods of rising prices. Although unions generally give more attention to money wages than real wages, a decline in real wages, resulting from cost of living, is always used as a potent argument for a wage increase, partly because it wins public support. But unions do not use this argument when prices are falling. The cost of living and the condition of firm in terms of ability to pay is used as a basis of setting terms of contract. Finally, since nothing succeeds like success, when a union feels that employer is vulnerable to a strike, e.g., if he is behind in filling his customers orders, it may decide that it is the appropriate time to win maximum concession.

2. Precedent of Recent Major Agreements

A major agreement made in an industry does not guarantee that other unions will receive the same concessions; there will be variations around the precedent. Nevertheless, employers resistance to similar demands is lessened. Once an important employer makes a given concession, other employers are in less advantageous position to object it for public relations reasons. The employer may feel compelled to grant the demand in order to maintain the morale of his workers who are aware of the concessions granted by other employers. This will bold true even in firms which are not unionized. Furthermore, unionized employees would be more willing to withstand a long strike after other employers have granted what their employer refuses. The effect of recent major agreements cuts both ways. That is, it may cause some unions to accept less than the; might have been able to receive had no such precedent existed. The unions would have less public sympathy in striking for amounts greater than other unions have accepted.

3. Inter-union Rivalry

The ability of a union leader to gain concessions at least equal to those won by other unions affect his status with his constituency, which of course is an important reason why major agreements affect settlements in other industries. However, inter-union rivalry has implications beyond merely following precedents. It may involve a struggle for power between leaders of two different unions, or perhaps leaders of two different factions of the same union. An ambitious local leader or regional director who wants to rise in the union hierarchy seeks to make greater gains than his rivals. To the extent that he influences the bargaining demands of his local or region, he gives priority to those demands which will enhance his position. In this way inter-union rivalry affect the determination of priority in collective bargaining goals.

4. Influence of International Situation

The increase in the international’s control over bargain influences the choice between various collective bargaining goals of trade unions, tending to give greater emphasis to nation wide goals as opposed to strictly local goals. The international officers and representatives are generally shrewder and more mature bargainers; they are professionals. They have a better understanding of the employer’s ability to pay, of the impact of any bargaining demand on the entire industry. In some cases this will cause them to bargain for larger amounts, while in other cases they may seek less than the local desire, depending on the economic conditions affecting the industry at that time. When the international exercises a large amount of control in the bargaining, less emphasis is generally placed on such purely local issues as speed up of the production line, discharge of a single employee or setting the wage rate for a new job. It is not that the international is uninterested in these matters, but rather it sees them as matters of local importance and should be dealt with the local unions.

5. Intra-union Influences

Intra-union influences also affect the priority of collective bargaining goals of trade unions. Within the union there are many actual and potential areas of conflict between different interest groups. Different skill groups within the union are liable to disagree over pay-differentials; they may take different views, of technological changes within the plant, since each group is likely to be affected differently by such changes. A conflict may develop between the more productive and the less productive workers, the former favoring an incentive pay plan which would increase their earnings, the latter favoring, straight time payment. Conflict between the shift and night shift over the amount of the differential are not uncommon; since the employer will grant only a limited total amount of monetary concessions, a larger night differential may mean a lower average wage for the day shift. The older workers would favor pension plans, whereas younger workers have little interest in these.

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