Stages and Strategies of Collective Bargaining

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The ILO Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention (No. 98), 1949 describes collective bargaining as:

"Voluntary negotiation between employers or employers' organizations and workers organizations, with a view to the regulation of terms and conditions of employment by collective agreements."

Collective bargaining could also be defined as negotiations relating to terms of employment and conditions of work between an employer, a group of employers or an employers' organization on the one hand, and representative workers' organizations on the other, with a view to reaching agreement.

There are several essential features of collective bargaining, all of which cannot be reflected in a single definition or description of the process:

It is not equivalent to collective agreements because collective bargaining refers to the process or means, and collective agreements to the possible result, of bargaining. Collective bargaining may not always lead to a collective agreement. •It is a method used by trade unions to improve the terms and conditions of employment of their members.

It seeks to restore the unequal bargaining position between employer and employee. •Where it leads to an agreement, it modifies, rather than replaces, the individual contract of employment, because it does not create the employer-employee relationship. •The process is bipartite, but in some developing countries the State plays a role in the form of a conciliator where disagreements occur, or where collective bargaining impinges on government policy. Stages of Collective Bargaining

Collective bargaining is a dispute redressal mechanism where workers and employers engage in a series of negotiations, and diplomatic and political maneuvers, to effect a collective agreement to resolve the dispute. The scope of the agreement usually relates to terms and conditions of employment, and clarification on rights and responsibilities of workers. The International Labor Organization lists eight recommended stages of the collective bargaining process: preparing, arguing, signaling, proposing, packaging, bargaining, closing, and agreeing.

Stage 1: Preparing
The basis of collective bargaining is management engaging in dialog with the workers collectively, and as such, the first stage of collective bargaining is organizing a group to represent the workers. If a trade union exists, then such unions usually take up the role of representing the workers. Otherwise the group is elected. The group representing workers prepares a list of proposals relating to the issues under dispute, usually related to compensation and working conditions. A pattern of benefits, conditions, rules, and regulations usually exists, and the worker’s proposal aims at highlighting the need for improvements and changes to such work conditions. Such a proposal becomes the basis for the negotiations that follow. The process of the group of workers framing such a proposal by reconciling the viewpoints of each individual worker is very often tedious and difficult, and takes place through discussions. The meeting ends in consensus, the group leaders taking the majority opinion, or the group leaders adhering to the dominant viewpoint. The best proposals are ones prepared considering various factors such as internal conditions of the company, the company’s financials, the external environment, and other factors, for the management would invariably counter-argue on such factors. Stage 2: Arguing

The second stage of collective bargaining is the group representing the workers arguing and substantiating their proposals, and the management counter-arguing, trying to refute the worker’s claims and contentions. The negotiators of both sides use relevant data such as financial figures, precedents, benchmarks, analogies, and other methods, and various methods such as use of logic, appealing to emotions, pleadings, and other techniques to substantiate their point of view. This stage of...
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