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negotiators, whether in sales, real estate or politics, are not required to conduct negotiations or to behave according to specified laws or rules in the conduct of their negotiations. Personal style and custom generally govern non-labor negotiations.
Labor-management negotiations, however, are subject to procedural rules that govern the behavior of those engaged in the negotiation of substantive rules (the terms and conditions of employment). Laws and rules which govern the negotiation process (such as the National Labor Relations Act in the USA) prescribe when the parties are obligated to negotiate, what constitutes fair play when dealing with each other, what subjects may or may not be negotiated, and provides enforcement mechanisms to insure the negotiation process adheres to the law.
In non-labor negotiations, misleading tactics, withholding of information, inflated proposals or bypassing a representative are simply part of doing business. In labor-management negotiations, however, the legal principle of good-faith bargaining provides the offended party legal recourse to require the other to clean up its negotiating tactics.
As in non-labor negotiations, communication styles and techniques vary widely in the collective bargaining process. The parties may have a strong relationship characterized by open and honest communication, or there may be a history of hostility and argumentative communications. As in non-labor situations, the parties may engage in very formal negotiations (attorney representatives, professional union advocates, written proposals and traditional meetings) or more casual discussions (local managers meeting with local union representatives to work out concerns).
In traditional labor-management negotiations, there are distinct communication tasks at different stages of the negotiations. At the outset, each party argues its case in an effort to justify proposals it makes. This is followed by discussions to clarify specifics and logistics of each one's proposals. In the middle sessions, the parties' communications are targeted at exploring areas of overlap or compromise. During this phase, the parties communicate more information about needs and priorities. In the closing sessions, trading, exchanging, conceding and compromise are integrated to produce an overall agreement.
Power and Persuasion
All negotiation scenarios include an element of power
and efforts to persuade. This is no different in labor negotiations except as
they manifest in the extreme. At the extremes of their access to power, the employer's
ultimate power is to withhold work (income) and the ultimate exercise of power
by the employee is to withhold labor (the means of production). In rare situations,
however, neither labor nor management possesses a better alternative to a negotiated
agreement than one with each other. An individual employee may have a better alternative
to an individual employer and vice versa. However, an entire group of employees
does not usually have a better alternative to a
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Copyright 2000 by The Negotiations Skills Company
Copyright © 2002, The Negotiator Magazine