Bargaining 2019: Managing Expectations
BY LLOYD BENNETT, VP SALARY AND WORKING CONDITIONS
We are a year out of having our Collective Agreement expire as we look to prepare for the spring 2019 bargaining round. Having served on the last two bargaining committees, I would like to offer some reflections as we get set to put the bargaining team together. First, bargaining was very little like I expected and was surely a learning experience for me as I moved from the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators (FPSE) workshop to be a note taker at the table. At the bargaining workshop, we learned how to behave as a team and check our body language, as we sat through hours of discussion. I recall the diligence our team took going over our Table Platform items and how reasonable it all seems to us.
The reality was, as our lead bargainer commented, it is a “pie” that exits and we are trying to get a piece (or sliver depending on your expectations), but the owner of the pie does not have to begin slicing up portions unless they want something in return. Indeed, as we found out unless there is something management wishes to make things run smoother, there is no exchange of significant measure.
This is the hardest thing for the new bargainers to take in, the other side does not respond to what we think is reasonable—you always have to make your case. To this end, we can plan and be creative in our proposals, but unless the other side agrees, there can be no significant progress in bargaining. Bargaining is the art of the possible; what it is not is a wish list where you can tick off platform items. Management will not give away things for free and the union is the same. If we go in understanding that every item has to be hard won we will be less disappointed. After our last round, which ended in a mediated settlement, many of us felt disappointed and disillusioned vowing to never to go through the experience again. However, after reflecting on our last experience I believe we held our expectations too high and failed to realize the important union work the bargaining team did by preparing and making our case with management. By meeting with Thompson Rivers University we honoured the tradition of the hard-won right of a union to bargain collectively and this was not an insignificant achievement.
See you at the table.