Negotiating Collective Agreements
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Hello, and welcome to Nothing but Negotiation. Today I'm joined
by Graham Botwright, Partner at the global negotiation specialists
The Gap Partnership to discuss the delicate process and strategy of
negotiating collective agreements.
Graham, any agreement involving a trade union is seen as a
That's a very good question Jonathan, I think we need to
understand some of the history around where trade unionism has come
from; and if we look at industrialisation, it generally causes
large corporate entities who of course have a lot of power, or
perceived power over their employees. The employees form together
through solidarity into a trade union to try and level that balance
So there are massive organisations representing very many
livelihoods, so I guess there's a very emotional complex at stake
when negotiations begin?
I think that's absolutely true and what we find is very often
the stakeholders involved in the negotiation are themselves
representatives of a collective body or an organization. The
shareholders therefore have quite an emotional and political agenda
that they have to follow and this means the stakes are very high
for them personally. It's important to understand that employee
relations is a negotiation and all negotiations are a ritual.
Automatically the two parties will have different, if not opposing
goals, it is important therefore to understand there is a ritual to
go through. You can imagine if I was to be your trade union
representative and I went into a negotiation, and I came out after
10 minutes saying to you, "great news Jonathan, I've got you a
fantastic deal", you'd probably feel a little short changed, you
want me to go through the pain of that negotiation and the conflict
in order to look after your best interests, and therefore we have
to understand that some of this conflict is healthy and part of the
But it's also a very, highly public pain, isn't it? Because
these negotiations are a very often on national news.
Well, of course if they go wrong, and we fail to reach that
agreement, yes they can become very public and that can be very
damaging for the brand of the organization, and the brand of the
trade union and it's employees and members. What we don't see is on
a day-to-day basis almost all negotiations, trade union or employee
relations, are happening where people are getting collaborative and
working together and resolving things relatively pain free. They
don't make such great headlines, though.
So, Graham, give me a real life example then of some of the
issues that face negotiating collective agreements.
There are many examples and I guess one example which is quite
topical is in the US and very high profile, where we see the
National Football League, the NFL, we see sports agents,
collectively leaving the agreements they do with the NFL much
later, in fact each season it seems to get right up to the day of
the game before they sign the contract. What we would suggest is
that negotiators use artificial time pressures to get the deal done
much earlier in the process.
So, in that particular case, leaving the deal so late leaves
your audience in doubt as to whether you can deliver or not, and
that has got to be bad news.
Of course that's absolutely true, but even more importantly as
the minutes tick down the power wings more in favour of the
footballers, and away from the NFL and the deal therefore they get
is often a much better one, which is of course why the agents do
So, final question Graham, three top tips for a negotiator of
OK, well first of all, always know what you're trying to achieve
and really understand the outcomes you need. Secondly, preparation,
and thirdly, always go into the negotiation with a "how" mentality,
rather than a "no" mentality.
Graham, thank you very much.
Thank you, Jonathan.