On a + note

Negotiations 101. #14: 2012

Posted in on a + note by Admin on May 14, 2012

The Guelph Public Library staff is part of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). The three city CUPE unions have been negotiating as a unit (670 employees) for a new employment contact with the city and library for the last six months. It would be a bit of an understatement to say it has been a long six months. On the up side, I learned a lot from the bargaining table, my peers, and the back rooms. For example, when negotiating:

  • Building relationships and respect gets you to “yes” quicker than anything.
  • An employment contract is only successful when everyone wins.
  • Don’t be too hasty to judge; everybody has their reasons.
  • In the darkest of hours, belief in the power of the negotiating process will help you to find the answers and common ground.
  • Be sure that you’re digging your heels in for the right reasons.
  • It is impossible to craft a “perfect” contract, but it is possible to get a fair one.
  • No longer are union contracts only about salaries. They are about working conditions, benefits, procedures, and policies. It’s complex.  
  • It takes a dedicated and knowledgeable team to negotiate a contract. From the bean counters and HR estimators to the lawyers and decision makers, Canadian labour law has become so complex, a team of highly specialized folks is necessary to craft an employment contract that is applicable.
  • Until recently, contract negotiations were done behind closed doors. The employees didn’t know what was being negotiated or decided until after the agreement was ratified. The good news is that times are changing. Union members want to know what’s on the table and what it will cost. It’s about transparency and public disclosure. When we all adjust to a more transparent process, the end result will be a better contract.  It’s just a bit scary navigating this new world!

There you have it. I hope it is helpful if you are about to pull up to the negotiation table.     

Kitty Pope                                                                                                        #14 April/12


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