Your Role in Collective Bargaining

You are the key

Except for the Union Representative, you should know your collective agreement better than anyone in the bargaining unit. You should also know the clauses of the agreement which are particularly important to the members in your area. You are, therefore, in an excellent position to monitor the agreement and develop notes on the strength and weaknesses of various clauses.

Keep a file of your notes and pass the information to the Union Representative when proposals are solicited prior to each agreement expiry date.

Get your members involved by encouraging them to think about various aspects of the contract that are of special interest to each of them and encourage them to submit their own thoughtful proposals. Such proposals should be limited to addressing the inadequacies of the current collective agreement and proposing realistic improvements.

This is also a good time to get members talking about the agreement. You can encourage discussion and help members to understand the meaning and intent of various clauses. Make it topic for discussion at coffee break or during the lunch hour.

Once the proposals have been ratified, some measure of secrecy becomes important. The reason for this is rather simple. If the employer knows what proposals the Union is going to present to him, he will simply come up with a set of proposals which specifically counter the Union's.

Being faced with a set of counter proposals, which are intended to counteract each (or any) of your own proposals, is not the sort of situation which leads to fruitful collective bargaining.

While collective bargaining is underway, you must be continually alert to efforts by the employer to undermine the confidence and morale of your members. Assure your members that their elected representatives on the negotiating committee always have the total membership's best interest in mind.

If there are any specific criticisms regarding collective bargaining, be sure they know that you, their Steward, will pass the message along quietly and to the right people. This is not a time to display overt displeasure in your bargaining committee in front of management.

Help the members realize that ad hoc negotiations with their managers or openly displaying dissatisfaction with their elected representatives serves only to damage their own cause.

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