Tactics or Strategies Adopted in Collective Bargaining

The tactics or strategies to be adopted in any collective bargaining situation vary depending upon the culture of the organization and different environmental factors, particularly the type of union operating in an industrial establishment. But the following are some of the common strategies to make collective bargaining exercise more meaningful:

  • The management has to anticipate the demands and also understand the main directions in which the demands are going to be placed. Generally speaking, negotiations are best done if both the parties do their home work well. The representatives must come to the bargaining table equipped with the necessary information and supportive data regarding the company’s economic status and prospects, the prevailing rates of pay and conditions of employment in comparable industries in the local areas. The management team should take into consideration the financial liability involved, the past agreements, and the impact of present negotiations in future years.
  • It is essential that a real team spirit is maintained throughout the negotiations. For this purpose, it is necessary that the roles to be played by each member of the team are properly pre-assigned, and each member knows when to take over the discussions. The team must have the confidence of facing any eventuality which may come up during negotiations. The team must have the power of taking decisions. The team must consist of people who have confidence of the workforce and unions. It is good to have a rehearsal among the team members on such points which can be anticipated to be made forcefully by the opposite team.
  • Any collective bargaining strategy should firstly separate the personalities from the problems for arriving at a workable and desirable agreement and secondly, explore the possibilities for harmony and compatibility.
  • Collective bargaining is two way traffic. The management as well as the union must gain out of collective bargaining. Hence, the management team should also present their counter proposals. For instance, the union pressure for a wage-hike may be matched by a counter demand for an increase in production, reduction in absenteeism, avoidance of wasteful/restrictive practices, industrial peace, and so on.
  • There is a greater necessity on the part of the management representatives to give a patient hearing to the demands of the union and not to react even if there is a threat of strike or work-stoppage. A rational well reasoned approach can achieve better results than an emotionally charged loud-mouthed approach.
  • It is also a bad strategy to depute persons of low rank without authority to commit the management on the negotiating table. Such a step may give an impression to the union that the management does not take the bargaining process with all the seriousness that it deserves.
  • It is a good practice always to classify the various demands raised by labor representatives distinguishing the real from the unreal. A thorough analysis and understanding of different items in the charter of demands will enable negotiators to arrive at a proper judgment.
  • It is a good tactic to total the cost of all the union proposals and to take up the non-cost items first or items on which it is easy to come to an agreement so that a suitable collective bargaining atmosphere is created for negotiating on more serious items which have financial implications.
  • Sometimes, the management instead of announcing its concessions at the bargaining table announces them before the conciliation officer as the starting point for further negotiations. This is not bargaining in good faith.

Any collective bargaining strategy must result in a good agreement or settlement, the characteristics of which are: (a) It must strike a proper balance between the various factors that go into its making in order to ensure its workability; (b) it must be viewed as a whole and the interrelation of its parts must be balanced one against the other; (c) it must be based upon experience, logic and principles rather than on coercive tactics, propaganda and force; (d) it must be fair and reasonable to the workers as regards their emoluments and service conditions; to the management in terms of improved production and productivity; and to consumer in respect of better quality goods and services; and (e) it must be complete and coherent in all respects without any ambiguity. In any event, it is enforcement that is the crucial test of a contract’s workability.

As a measure of follow up: (a) evaluate prevailing environmental changes and cultivate a healthy pragmatic approach; (b) train and develop rank and file of working group to inculcate in them individual effectiveness and professionalism in collective bargaining; and (c) develop specific action-plans for collective bargaining based on prevailing situation.

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