Collective Bargaining for Employers

How long has it been since you sat at the Bargaining Table with your union? Do you have regular, productive communication with your union? Who will prepare and lead the renewal of your collective agreement? RSMac Consulting Inc has 30 years of experience in Labour Relations including first time and renewal negotiations of collective bargaining agreements.

When it’s time to negotiate your renewal, there are many steps to be taken and much information to be considered prior to negotiating. Companies should start to prepare at least 5-6 months prior to the expiration of the collective agreement, even more if you have a difficult relationship with your union.

There are several key areas to consider in the months prior to negotiating:

File Prep

Preparation is key to ensuring you have a positive and productive round of negotiations. Reviewing all available data on economic conditions and service delivery costs will help determine your response to union demands. Reviewing past negotiations and previous grievances and settlements will help predict what areas of the collective agreement the union will be seeking to change.

Having a prepared wish list of things management wants to change will help keep you focused during negotiations. Be careful having too long of a wish list, agreeing to change at the bargaining table and having those changes ratified by majority vote are two very different steps. Opening too many articles for change can lead to confusion and agreements voted down due to lack of understanding. Keep your wish lists short and tactical.

Committee Training

Your management committee should be included in all steps and preparations of the file and should receive training on process and bargaining basics as well as training in what to expect at the bargaining table. The renewal of a collective agreement is a group effort with all members of the bargaining committee playing a role.

Strategic Plan

Make sure you have an experienced lead negotiator that is familiar with the bargaining process, jurisdiction and role of support services of the government and procedural rules related to bargaining, management rights and pitfalls.

Have a strategic plan regarding process, steps and the mechanics of bargaining. Plan for the worst and hope for the best. Bargaining doesn’t begin with a strike mandate, but labour action is always a possibility. Plans to manage the workplace and possible labour action should be discussed no matter how strong of a file prep or relationship you have with the union.

Process of Negotiations

Who will prepare your company for negotiations? Who will lead negotiations? Who will take official notes at the table? Who will manage the change document? Who will you consult during bargaining on financial matters? Who can be called upon as subject matter experts during bargaining? What are your boundaries and limits when it comes to change? Who makes the final decisions?

All of these questions and more, need to be addressed and identified prior to starting bargaining.

Table Negotiations

Your lead negotiator must be versed in the protocol of bargaining. Who speaks when, how are proposals introduced, when are proposals introduced, how to avoid a charge of unfair bargaining, and how to stay focused. Bargaining is meant to be an informal process where individuals can speak their minds and both sides are committed to a peaceful and productive process to make changes to the collective agreement.

Despite the process being informal, there are many rules related to bargaining in good faith, your lead negotiator must know and understand these, so as to avoid that path.

Management Training for Implementation

Congratulations on getting your new agreement ratified. What’s next? The hard part isn’t over, it’s just beginning. Executing the renewed collective agreement is paramount to keeping the positive momentum from negotiations going. Delays in wage increases or mismanagement of complex changes to certain articles can lead to grievances and arbitration requests.

Ensure your entire management team is properly trained on the changes to the collective agreement and start following it as soon as possible. Conduct training sessions for all management/supervisory personnel on affected articles.

RSMac Consulting Inc. has developed a bargaining playbook that details 16 steps to prepare your negotiation:

  1. Review previous negotiations.
  2. Review grievance, mediation and arbitration history.
  3. Research any employment permits required to be renewed.
  4. Chart and research existing monetary clauses in the collective agreement.
  5. Review bargaining unit makeup and determine impact of sister agreements.
  6. Review operating experience with management.
  7. Discuss background information for excluded employees.
  8. Review current LOU’s or other associated documents tied to the current agreement.
  9. Discuss how to handle information requests from the union.
  10. Conduct an industry comparison study.
  11. Generate data on wages, benefits, pensions, vacation and health insurance.
  12. Summarize hours of work for each classification in the agreement.
  13. Breakdown payroll information.
  14. Establish employer bargaining strategies and timelines.
  15. Establish a financial mandate for bargaining.
  16. Determine bargaining committee and strategy for bargaining.

Proper research, file prep and strategic tactics throughout the relationship with the union will pave the road to a ratified deal and Labour peace in the term of the agreement. Conversely, failure to plan, knee-jerk actions and lack of a strategy can lead to being accused of unfair labour practises, disruptive labour action, rulings against you and long and drawn out processes that costs you money, damage your brand, lose customers and reduce employee productivity/morale.

RSMac Consulting will leverage their decades of experience to get the job done. RSMac Consulting can be called in to help in preparing the file, train your staff and lead your negotiations.

Call today for a quote.

RSMac Consulting is dedicated to providing your business with an array of services to help improve your performance. Whether it’s event security management, human resources, or labour relations services; our consulting can be exactly what you need to get on the path to success. For more information, please visit http://rsmac.ca.