Preparing your team

Choosing and training the bargaining team in preparation for collective bargaining.

One part of preparing for bargaining is to develop a strategy for bargaining. You can use an environmental analysis as your starting point. You should think about:

  1. Who are the players involved in the bargaining?
  2. What are the needs and interests of the business, or businesses?
  3. What are the needs and interests of the workforce?
  4. What are the issues that are likely to come up and the effects of possible proposals?
  5. Who do you have to convince?
  6. Who are the opinion-makers?
  7. What is the fall-back strategy if you cannot get a resolution?

Deciding your bargaining team

The decision about who is in your bargaining team is very important. Genuine and effective bargaining relies on having the right people in the team. Only the employer and union representatives can bargain for a collective agreement. Their role has the responsibility to advance the interests of the party they represent.

The Code of Good Faith recommends that parties tell each other about their bargaining teams through the bargaining process arrangement. This means the parties have to think about who should be on their team before they prepare a bargaining process agreement.

Good Faith in Collective Bargaining

Your bargaining team is most likely to be successful if your team members have the authority, knowledge and experience to genuinely bargain about the issues. This includes:

  • understanding the needs of the business, or businesses, and the workforce
  • understanding the issues that may come up and the reasons for, and likely effects of, what might be proposed
  • understanding the obligation to bargain in good faith, including the need to make sure the people they represent are kept accurately informed of the direction being taken in the bargaining
  • being credible advocates for the process among those you represent
  • having the authority to make decisions and having clear decision-making processes
  • representing and being able to communicate with people involved in the different types of jobs and/or work areas covered by the bargaining
  • everyone on the team knowing what their roles are (for example, who will take the offers at the bargaining table, who will take notes, who will communicate to the people they represent and when)
  • choosing members with the appropriate authority and providing training
  • looking at the other party’s bargaining team and seeing if there are existing relationships that could help orderly and effective bargaining
  • making sure your team has enough time away from their usual jobs to bargain well.

Training for collective bargaining

Providing training for your bargaining team is a useful way to help them prepare for bargaining. This can include understanding the law relating to bargaining, bargaining in good faith, what to expect at the bargaining table, and different approaches to bargaining (for example, positional bargaining, Interest-Based Bargaining or a mixed approach). 

The Employment Mediation Service can assist in helping you prepare for your bargaining.

Getting legal advice and advocacy support

Parties should generally try to resolve their own workplace issues, but collective bargaining is a special area. Unions have an essential role in representing their members’ interests in collective bargaining. The requirement for democratic and reasonable union rules reinforces the importance of this representative role. Employees who want to take part in collective bargaining need to join a union.

Employers who are collective bargaining need to bargain with a union that represents the employees, but they can choose who they want to represent them in the bargaining. Employers can access advice and advocacy support by contacting, for example, employers’ associations, employment lawyers or advocates.

For assistance with bargaining at any stage of the process, parties can contact the Employment Mediation Service. 

Employment Mediation Service

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