Why employers should set up a bargaining process agreement

Preparation is key to a successful collective bargaining process

Why employers should set up a bargaining process agreement

Collective bargaining may be a complex process of deliberation that leaves no stone unturned, but it also need not be a tedious experience for the employer or union approaching the negotiating table.

As mandated by New Zealand’s Employment Relations Act 2000, all parties must exhibit good faith in bargaining. This means, everyone at the table should be willing to work towards fostering a positive employment relationship; be open to communicating throughout the entire process; and be welcoming of new proposals in a bid to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.

Before a notice to bargain can be released by either side, the request should first clearly identify the intention behind the talks; the names of the parties who should take part in the deliberation; and the topics that should be discussed (otherwise known as the coverage clause). Only then can the bargaining commence.

Hence, preparation is key for all parties to initiate and follow through with the deliberation.

Given the many stages of collective bargaining, all parties would do well to establish a system for managing every aspect of the negotiation right from the beginning.

Good planning entails carefully managing the expectations and desired outcomes of the employer and the union, according to industrial relations experts from Employsure, which advises companies in Australia and New Zealand on employment regulations.

What is a bargaining process agreement?
A crucial element of the negotiation is thus the establishment of a bargaining process agreement –which serves as a roadmap for dealing with minor issues that might otherwise detract attention from the real concerns set out in the coverage clause.

“By setting up a bargaining process agreement to manage each state of the process, it will help avoid distractions and keeps the communication going forward,” Employsure recommends.

According to Employment New Zealand, the bargaining process agreement should identify the following terms:

  • The representatives of the employer and union
  • The size and constitution of the negotiating parties
  • The proposed frequency and schedule of negotiations
  • The venue and who should pay for the costs
  • The communication channels open between the parties
  • The types of information to be provided
  • The method of handling disagreements

“The parties have to try their best to agree on the bargaining process arrangement as soon as possible after bargaining has been initiated,” Employment New Zealand advises.

“Once the bargaining process arrangement is done, it’s time to start considering the claims made by the other party and the interests of your own team.” 

HRD’s Employment Law Masterclass Auckland on 11 March 2020 will tackle employer obligations as well as negotiation tips and strategies when undergoing collective bargaining. To learn more, register for the program today.

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