By Charles Power
In Wednesday’s Bulletin, I went over the things you need to do during an enterprise agreement negotiation process to ensure you are bargaining in good faith.
When approaching the negotiation process, some employers prefer to initiate a general discussion with their employees before they start to draft their enterprise agreement and often invite contributions. For example, they could ask their employees to outline what has not worked under the current agreement or industrial instrument and what their proposals for change are.
Alternatively, some employers prefer to draft their enterprise agreement first and then discuss it with their employees (and relevant unions). This way the discussions can focus on the specific points in issue.
Whichever method you decide to choose when conducting the negotiations, there are a number of steps you should follow to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible. They are as follows:
- Organise a meeting to discuss the agreement. If you have a large workforce, you and the other bargaining representatives may want to appoint a committee to act on your employees’ behalf. These representatives can then be involved in the negotiation and drafting process.
- Provide regular feedback to all employees as negotiations progress.
- Negotiate the agreement in an orderly, logical way.
- Decide what your goals are and prioritise them. Decide which issues are negotiable and which are non-negotiable. Explain why to your employees and their bargaining representatives.
- Listen to your employees’ (and their bargaining representatives’) points of view and take into account what they have said. Ask questions if necessary. Consider whether their position(s) can be accommodated and if not, provide reasons why.
- Clearly set out the needs of your business and why you want certain things included in the agreement. It is important that your employees and their bargaining representatives understand the goals of your business. Give employees the ability to provide input as to how these goals can be achieved.
- Consider the overall goal you are trying to achieve. Even if you and your employees (and their bargaining representatives) disagree on the method of solving a problem, you may both still agree on the same goal. For example, you might not be able to afford onsite childcare facilities for your employees, but you may be able to negotiate more flexible working hours to accommodate your employees’ needs.
- Try to prepare alternative options if your proposals are not accepted. Anticipate your employees’ (and their bargaining representatives’) resistance to your propositions and if you can, have alternatives ready.
- Do not argue. Work towards negotiating solutions to the issues in dispute. Remember, after the agreement is finalised you’ll still be working together.
And don’t forget your obligations to bargain in good faith!