COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

Collective bargaining is process of joint decision making and basically represents a democratic way of life in industry. It is the process of negotiation between firm’s and workers’ representatives for the purpose of establishing mutually agreeable conditions of employment. It is a technique adopted by two parties to reach an understanding acceptable to both through the process of discussion and negotiation.

ILO has defined collective bargaining as, negotiation about working conditions and terms of employment between an employer and a group of employees or one or more employee, 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.

Collective bargaining involves discussions and negotiations between two groups as to the terms and conditions of employment. It is called ‘collective’ because both the employer and the employee act as a group rather than as individuals. It is known as ‘bargaining’ because the method of reaching an agreement involves proposals and counter proposals, offers and counter offers and other negotiations.

Thus collective bargaining:

  • is a collective process in which representatives of both the management and employees participate.
  • is a continuous process which aims at establishing stable relationships between the parties involved.
  • not only involves the bargaining agreement, but also involves the implementation of such an agreement.
  • attempts in achieving discipline in the industry
  • is a flexible approach, as the parties involved have to adopt a flexible attitude towards negotiations.

Forms of Bargaining

A collective bargaining process generally consists of four types of activities- distributive bargaining, integrative bargaining, attitudinal restructuring and intra-organizational bargaining.

Distributive bargaining:

It involves haggling over the distribution of surplus. Under it, the economic issues like wages, salaries and bonus are discussed. In distributive bargaining, one party’s gain is another party’s loss. This is most commonly explained in terms of a pie. Disputants can work together to make the pie bigger, so there is enough for both of them to have as much as they want, or they can focus on cutting the pie up, trying to get as much as they can for themselves. In general, distributive bargaining tends to be more competitive. This type of bargaining is also Known as conjunctive bargaining.

Integrative bargaining:

This involves negotiation of an issue on which both the parties may gain, or at least neither party loses. For example, representatives of employer and employee sides may bargain over the better training programme or a better job evaluation method. Here, both the parties are trying to make more of something. In general, it tends to be more cooperative than distributive bargaining. This type of bargaining is also known as cooperative bargaining.

Attitudinal restructuring:

This involves shaping and reshaping some attitudes like trust or distrust, friendliness or hostility between labor and management. When there is a backlog of bitterness between both the parties, attitudinal restructuring is required to maintain smooth and harmonious industrial relations. It develops a bargaining environment and creates trust and cooperation among the parties.

Intra-organizational bargaining:

It generally aims at resolving internal conflicts. This is a type of maneuvering to achieve consensus with the workers and management. Even within the union there may be differences between groups. For example, skilled workers may feel that they are neglected or women workers may feel that their interests are not looked after properly. Within the management also, there may be differences. Trade unions maneuver to achieve consensus among the conflicting groups.

Characteristics of Collective Bargaining

  • It is a group process, wherein one group, representing the employers, and the other, representing the employees, sit together to negotiate terms of employment.
  • Negotiations form an important aspect of the process of collective bargaining i.e., there is considerable scope for discussion, compromise or mutual give and take in collective bargaining.
  • Collective bargaining is a formalized process by which employers and independent trade unions negotiate terms and conditions of employment and the ways in which certain employment-related issues are to be regulated at national, organizational and workplace levels.
  • Collective bargaining is a process in the sense that it consists of a number of steps. It begins with the presentation of the charter of demands and ends with reaching an agreement, which would serve as the basic law governing labor management relations over a period of time in an enterprise. Moreover, it is flexible process and not fixed or static. Mutual trust and understanding serve as the by products of harmonious relations between the two parties.
  • It a bipartite process. This means there are always two parties involved in the process of collective bargaining. The negotiations generally take place between the employees and the management. It is a form of participation.
  • Collective bargaining is a complementary process i.e. each party needs something that the other party has; labor can increase productivity and management can pay better for their efforts.
  • Collective bargaining tends to improve the relations between workers and the union on the one hand and the employer on the other.
  • Collective Bargaining is continuous process. It enables industrial democracy to be effective. It uses cooperation and consensus for settling disputes rather than conflict and confrontation.
  • Collective bargaining takes into account day to day changes, policies, potentialities, capacities and interests.

It is a political activity frequently undertaken by professional negotiators

Collective Bargaining Process

Collective bargaining generally includes negotiations between the two parties (employees’ representatives and employer’s representatives). Collective bargaining consists of negotiations between an employer and a group of employees that determine the conditions of employment. Often employees are represented in the bargaining by a union or other labor organization. The result of collective bargaining procedure is called the collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Collective agreements may be in the form of procedural agreements or substantive agreements. Procedural agreements deal with the relationship between workers and management and the procedures to be adopted for resolving individual or group disputes.

This will normally include procedures in respect of individual grievances, disputes and discipline. Frequently, procedural agreements are put into the company rule book which provides information on the overall terms and conditions of employment and codes of behavior. A substantive agreement deals with specific issues, such as basic pay, overtime premiums, bonus arrangements, holiday entitlements, hours of work, etc. In many companies, agreements have a fixed time scale and a collective bargaining process will review the procedural agreement when negotiations take place on pay and conditions of employment.

The collective bargaining process comprises of five core steps:

  1. Prepare: This phase involves composition of a negotiation team. The negotiation team should consist of representatives of both the parties with adequate knowledge and skills for negotiation. In this phase both the employer’s representatives and the union examine their own situation in order to develop the issues that they believe will be most important. The first thing to be done is to determine whether there is actually any reason to negotiate at all. A correct understanding of the main issues to be covered and intimate knowledge of operations, working conditions, production norms and other relevant conditions is required.
  2. Discuss: Here, the parties decide the ground rules that will guide the negotiations. A process well begun is half done and this is no less true in case of collective bargaining. An environment of mutual trust and understanding is also created so that the collective bargaining agreement would be reached.
  3. Propose: This phase involves the initial opening statements and the possible options that exist to resolve them. In a word, this phase could be described as ‘brainstorming’. The exchange of messages takes place and opinion of both the parties is sought.
  4. Bargain: negotiations are easy if a problem solving attitude is adopted. This stage comprises the time when ‘what ifs’ and ‘supposals’ are set forth and the drafting of agreements take place.
  5. Settlement: Once the parties are through with the bargaining process, a consensual agreement is reached upon wherein both the parties agree to a common decision regarding the problem or the issue. This stage is described as consisting of effective joint implementation of the agreement through shared visions, strategic planning and negotiated change.

Importance of Collective Bargaining

Collective bargaining includes not only negotiations between the employers and unions but also includes the process of resolving labor-management conflicts. Thus, collective bargaining is, essentially, a recognized way of creating a system of industrial jurisprudence. It acts as a method of introducing civil rights in the industry, that is, the management should be conducted by rules rather than arbitrary decision making. It establishes rules which define and restrict the traditional authority exercised by the management.
Importance to employees

  • · Collective bargaining develops a sense of self respect and responsibility among the employees.
  • It increases the strength of the workforce, thereby, increasing their bargaining capacity as a group.
  • Collective bargaining increases the morale and productivity of employees.
  • It restricts management’s freedom for arbitrary action against the employees. Moreover, unilateral actions by the employer are also discouraged.
  • Effective collective bargaining machinery strengthens the trade unions movement.
  • The workers feel motivated as they can approach the management on various matters and bargain for higher benefits.
  • It helps in securing a prompt and fair settlement of grievances. It provides a flexible means for the adjustment of wages and employment conditions to economic and technological changes in the industry, as a result of which the chances for conflicts are reduced.

Importance to employers

  1. It becomes easier for the management to resolve issues at the bargaining level rather than taking up complaints of individual workers.
  2. Collective bargaining tends to promote a sense of job security among employees and thereby tends to reduce the cost of labor turnover to management.
  3. Collective bargaining opens up the channel of communication between the workers and the management and increases worker participation in decision making.
  4. Collective bargaining plays a vital role in settling and preventing industrial disputes.

Importance to society

  1. Collective bargaining leads to industrial peace in the country
  2. It results in establishment of a harmonious industrial climate which supports which helps the pace of a nation’s efforts towards economic and social development since the obstacles to such a development can be reduced considerably.
  3. The discrimination and exploitation of workers is constantly being checked.

It provides a method or the regulation of the conditions of employment of those who are directly concerned about them.

LEVELS OF COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

Collective bargaining operates at three levels:

1. National level

2. Sector or industry level

3. Company/enterprise level

Economy-wide (national) bargaining is a bipartite or tripartite form of negotiation between union confederations, central employer associations and government agencies. It aims at providing a floor for lower-level bargaining on the terms of employment, often taking into account macroeconomic goals.

Sectoral bargaining, which aims at the standardization of the terms of employment in one industry, includes a range of bargaining patterns. Bargaining may be either broadly or narrowly defined in terms of the industrial activities covered and may be either split up according to territorial subunits or conducted nationally.

The third bargaining level involves the company and/or establishment. As a supplementary type of bargaining, it emphasizes the point that bargaining levels need not be mutually exclusive.  

 

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Image: politicalhumor.about.com

Source: Michael R. Carrell, Christina Heavrin (Labour Relations Collective Bargaining)

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