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Process of negotiation between representatives of workers (usually labour

union officials) and management to determine the conditions of employment.

The agreement reached may cover not only wages but hiring practices,
layoffs, promotions, working conditions and hours, and benefit programs.
Collective bargaining developed in England at the end of the 18th century.
Although collective bargaining agreements are common in many countries,
they are more scarce in developing countries that have large pools of surplus
labour. Contract negotiations may occur at the national, regional, or local
level, depending on the structure of industry within a country. See also labour
union; strike

Process by which members of the labor force, operating through authorized

union representatives, negotiate with their employers concerning wages,
hours, working conditions, and benefits

Collective bargaining is "a process of negotiation between management and union

representatives for the purpose of arriving at mutually acceptable wages and working
conditions for employees" (Boone and Kurtz, 1999, pp. 424-425). Various methods
may be used in the bargaining process, but the desired outcome is always mutual
acceptance by labor and management of a collective bargaining agreement or

The Bargaining Process

The collective bargaining process begins when the majority of workers of an

organization vote to be represented by a specific union. The National Labor Relations
Board (see Labor Unions) then certifies the union. At this point, the management of
the organization must recognize the union as the collective bargaining agent for all the
employees of that organization. Once this part of the process is completed, collective
bargaining can begin.

Bargaining always takes place between labor and management, but negotiations can
include more than one group of workers and more than one employer. Single-plant,
single-employer agreements are the most common. However, if an employer has more
than one plant or work site, multiplant, single-employer agreements can be bargained.
Several different union groups representing the workers of the same employer can use
coalition bargaining. Industry wide bargaining involves one national union bargaining
with several employers of a specific industry.

Many different negotiation styles can be used when union and labor representatives sit
down at the bargaining table. The two basic modes of bargaining are traditional
bargaining and partnership bargaining, though there are many variations of each style.

The traditional style of bargaining has been used since collective bargaining began
between management and the early labor unions (see Labor Unions). It is an
adversarial style of negotiating, pitting one side against the other with little or no
understanding of, or education about, the other on the part of either party. Each side
places its demands and proposals on the table, and the other side responds to them
with counterproposals. The process is negative and involves a struggle of give-and-
take on most issues. Even with its negative connotations, however, the traditional
style of negotiating is still used effectively in bargaining many union contracts.

The partnership style of bargaining is the more modern approach to negotiations. It

strives for mutual understanding and common education on the part of both labor and
management, and it focuses on goals and concerns common to both parties. Because
of its emphasis on each side's being aware of the issues concerning the other side,
partnership-style bargaining is also known as interest-based bargaining. In this
process, labor and management each list and explain their needs, and the ensuing
discussion revolves around ways to meet those needs that will be not only acceptable
but also beneficial to both parties. This style of bargaining is very positive and
imparts a much more congenial atmosphere to the negotiating process. Many modern
union-management contracts are bargained very successfully using the partnership

A blending of the traditional and partnership styles is widely used in labor-

management negotiations. The combination approach is used for many reasons,
including the fact that many union and management leaders are more familiar with the
traditional style. However, with today's more participatory relationship between labor
and management in the workplace, the partnership style is becoming more accepted
and is being used more frequently. The negotiating process may also include both
styles of bargaining because of the variety of issues being negotiated. The partnership
style may be used to negotiate certain issues, while the traditional style may be
invoked when bargaining other terms

The Settlement Process

Union contracts are usually bargained to remain in effect for two to three years but
may cover longer or shorter periods of time. The process of negotiating a union
contract, however, may take an extended period of time. Once the management and
union members of the negotiating team come to agreement on the terms of the
contract, the union members must accept or reject the agreement by a majority vote. If
the agreement is accepted, the contract is ratified and becomes a legally binding
agreement remaining in effect for the specified period of time.

If the union membership rejects the terms of the agreement, the negotiating teams
from labor and management return to the bargaining table and continue to negotiate.
This cycle can be repeated several times. If no agreement can be reached between the
two teams, negotiations are said to have "broken down," and several options become

Mediation is usually the first alternative when negotiations are at a stalemate. The two
parties agree voluntarily to have an impartial third party listen to the proposals of both
sides. It is the mediator's job to get the two sides to agree to a settlement. Once the
mediator understands where each side stands, he or she makes recommendations for
settling their differences. The mediator merely makes suggestions, gives advice, and
tries to get labor and management to compromise on a solution. Agreement is still
voluntary at this point. The mediator has no power to force either of the parties to
settle the contract, though often labor and management do come to agreement by
using mediation.
If mediation fails to bring about a settlement, the next step can be arbitration, which
can be either compulsory or voluntary. Compulsory arbitration is not often used in
labor-management negotiations in the United States. Occasionally, however, the
federal government requires union and management to submit to compulsory
arbitration. In voluntary arbitration, both sides agree to use the arbitration process and
agree that it will be binding. As in mediation, an impartial third party serves in the
arbitration process. The arbitrator acts as a judge, listening to both sides and then
making a decision on the terms of the settlement, which becomes legally binding on
labor and management. Ninety percent of all union contracts use arbitration if the
union and management can't come to agreement (Boone and Kurtz, 1999).

Sources of Power

If the collective bargaining process is not working as a way to settle the differences
between labor and management, both sides have weapons they can use to bolster their
positions. One of the most effective union tactics is the strike or walkout. While on
strike, employees do not report to work and, of course, are not paid. Strikes usually
shut down operations, thus pressuring management to give in to the union's demands.
Some employees, even though allowed to belong to unions, are not allowed to strike.
Federal employees fall into this category. The law also prohibits some state and
municipal employees from striking.

During a strike, workers often picket at the entrance to their place of employment.
This involves marching, carrying signs, and talking to the media about their demands.
The right to picket is protected by the U.S. Constitution as long as it does not involve
violence or intimidation. Problems sometimes arise during strikes and picketing when
management hires replacement workers, called scabs or strikebreakers, who

Grievance Procedures

Once a collective bargaining agreement is settled and a union contract is signed, it is

binding on both the union and management. However, disagreements with contract
implementation can arise and violations of the contract terms can occur. In these
cases, a grievance, or complaint, can be filed. The differences that must be resolved
are usually handled through a step-by-step process that is outlined in the collective
bargaining agreement. The grievance procedure begins with a complaint to the
worker's immediate supervisor and, if unresolved at that level, moves upward, step by
step, to higher levels of management. If no resolution is found at any of these levels,
the two parties can agree to have the grievance submitted to an impartial outside
arbitrator for a decision binding to the union and management.

Collective bargaining is a successful way for workers to reach their goals concerning
accept able wages, hours, and working conditions. It al lows workers to bargain as a
team to satisfy their needs. Collective bargaining also allows management to negotiate
efficiently with workers by bar gaining with them as a group instead of with each one
individually. Though traditional bargaining can be negative and adversarial, it does
produce collective bargaining agreements between labor and management.
Partnership bargaining can lead to increased understanding and trust between labor
and management. It is a positive, cooperative approach to collective bargaining that
also culminates in contracts between labor and management