If the collective bargaining agreement between the Employer and Union expires within the next six (6) to twelve (12) month period, its time to begin preparing for the bargaining process.
Negotiations preparation is a long and complex process with multiple steps that require in depth analysis of your organization, your financial status, day-to-day operations, the collective bargaining agreement and the Employer’s objectives. Here is a brief and general checklist that may be of some help.
1. Contract Analysis
Examine and analyze the contract to locate provisions that:
— Conflict with other provisions
— Are obsolete or no longer followed
— Need clarification
— Need to be deleted and replaced with modern and competitive provisions
— Generate grievances
Additionally, it should be noted that some types of contract language are written in a form of “code.” In essence, the general interpretation of the provision is not particularly evident from a simple reading of the provision. In these cases, it might make sense to revise the provision to provide a more simple and easy to follow explanation of the contractual provision.
2. Supervisor Input
Meet with the supervisors to determine what operational provisions could be changed to provide a more efficient work place. Often supervisors know exactly what must be accomplished, but are waiting for someone to ask their opinion.
3. Financial Parameters
Typically, it is best to keep the financial parameters general so as to avoid creating a “must have” dynamic. This is not to say that the Employer should not establish a bottom line, but instead, to establish multiple ways of achieving the bottom line.
4. Data Collection
Some of the typical data the Employer will need available for negotiations are straight time and overtime hours, attendance data, health care costs and trends, retirement costs and trends and efficiency trends, just to name a few.
5. Establish Proposals
Draft the proposals by presenting the contract language and developing the modifications thereto. This is typically accomplished through the use of bolding for new language and strikethrough for language to be deleted.
The relative importance of the proposals and the final objectives must be determined so the Employer knows where there is room to move and where it will stand firm.
It is important to understand that there are multiple ways of accomplishing the same objective. So, this is probably a good time to review those types of alternatives as well.
6. Establish Arguments
Background data should be gathered to support each proposal. Management’s strategy and supporting arguments should be developed well in advance of the negotiations so that flaws in any argument can be properly addressed.
7. Establish Anticipated Union Proposals
Determine what problems or issues the Union will likely advance and begin the process of formulating resolutions/counter arguments.
8. Strike/Lockout Preparation
Though the ultimate goal is to reach an agreement without resorting to any economic action that will hurt both the Employer and the employees, preparations and strike contingency planning should occur well in advance of the contract expiration.
Please note: As the preparation process for negotiations is complex and becoming more complex, Employers may want to consider using professional assistance.