Collective Bargaining In The Workplace

.. d by the parties to be a legally enforceable contract unless the agreement – (a) is in writing, and (b) contains a provision which (however expressed) states that the parties intend that the agreement shall be a legally enforceable contract (2) Any collective agreement which does satisfy these conditions in subsection (1)(a) and (b) above shall be conclusively presumed to have been intended by the parties to be a legally enforceable contract.’ There are four main advantages claimed for the legal enforcement of collective agreements: (a) collective agreements would have to become both more comprehensive and more precise in defining the rights and obligations of each party if their meaning and intend is to be capable of legal interpretation should the need arise; (b) it would put pressure on union officials, as representatives of one of the signatory parties, to use their best endeavours to ensure that their members complied with the terms of the agreement – particularly the no strike’ clause. This, it is anticipated, would reduce the incidence of unconstitutional strikes; (c) it would allow management to manage the organisation secure in the knowledge that once an agreement had been concluded, its terms would be adhered to; (d) it would induce a long-term attitudinal change in industrial relations, which could result in employees benefiting by increased wages and greater job security. British employers today continue to be divided in their approach to trade unionism and collective bargaining. Trade union membership as a percentage of the work force is declining in response to changes in the composition of the work force.

Employers are engaged in derecognition policies in increasing numbers. Recent industrial relations surveys indicate that almost half of all employers who are prepared to reach an accommodation with trade unions and engage in collective bargaining. Recognition is spread mainly by custom and practice, although increasingly comprehensive management-union agreements are being drawn up. These are valuable in that they specify in detail who the employer would negotiate with, where, and over what issues, and also questions such as trade union facilities on the employer’s premises, and the automatic deduction of union subscriptions from the employee’s pay packet. Employers prepared to reach an accommodation with trade unions vary in their approach. One minority g roup has been identified as constitutionalists’, such as Ford, who codify rules in the collective bargaining. A majority group consists of more informal consultors’, such as large oil companies, in which trade unions are recognised and collective bargaining is well developed, but the management does not codify everything in a collective agreement.

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Another group consists of firms, which insist on strike free agreements’ with single unions or single table bargaining’. A third group of managers take more pragmatic approach to trade unions and industrial relations altering it as circumstances change and making little real attempt to achieve consistency between different establishments of the firm. What all categories have in common is that they are firms in which management legitimises the union’s role in certain areas of joint decision making because it sees this role as conductive to its own interests as measured by stability, promotion of consent, effective communication, etc. On the other hand, the firms, which oppose trade unions also, display differences in style. One group consists of forceful opposition’, in which directors and senior managers have virtually no contact with trade unions and are determined to use all legal means to prevent trade union membership and activity among the work force.

Another group consisting of US firms such as IBM, Hewlett Packard and Kodak, and British firms such as Marks and Spencer, adopts a more indirect form of opposition in the form of sophisticated paternalism’. These companies firmly refuse to recognise trade unions and take the position that they can best look after their employees’ interests but they take great care in recruitment, selection, training, counselling and remuneration to keep employees sufficiently happy to be unattracted to trade unions. Recognition remains the threshold for various new statutory rights including information relevant to collective bargaining, consultation over redundancies and time off for trade union activities. There are many levels of collective bargaining. The agreements may be at a national level between either one union or confederation of unions on the workers’ side, and a single employer or an employers’ association representing management. The purpose of industry-level bargaining has two viewpoints: (a) From the trade union point of view it ensures that a common rule is applied across as wide area as possible.

In the wages sphere it reinforces the concept of a rate for the job’ based on the inherent nature of the job rather than the financial or productivity position of a particular organisation. (b) From the management point of view it allows organisations to present a collective response to trade union pressure; it stabilises the wage costs for all organisations at a uniform level and prevents unfair’ competition between organisations based on differing wage levels. However, the wage rate set at the national level in many private manufacturing industries tends to be that which can be afforded by the least productive and profitable within the industry. The increased emphasis on organisational bargaining in the private sector from the 1960s onwards is a result mainly because of the inability, and inappropriateness of formal industry agreements to regulate the increasing range of issues which were becoming subject to collective bargaining, such as changes in working methods and improvements in productivity, which are difficult to be regulated effectively from the national level, given the diversity of organisational requirements. Organisational bargaining covers a variety of different levels and forms of collective bargaining: (a) Company – or group-level bargaining where all employees of a given type within the organisation, irrespective of their place of work, are covered by a single bargaining agreement.

(b) Plant or site bargaining in multi-site organisations. This level of bargaining is particularly important in those organisations, which are multi-industry as well as multi-site and therefore the nature of the work, and process involved will vary between the sites and require different terms and conditions of employment. (c) Departmental or workshop bargaining relating to such issues as bonus schemes and work arrangements. It is important to say that organisational bargaining is not confined to one or other level but may take place at a combination of levels. In addition to any industry-level bargaining, there may be bargaining at the company-level (pensions), the site-level (enhancement of nationally agreed terms) and the departmental level (the employees’ actual working arrangements).

Organisational bargaining has two important advantages: (a) It encourages management to develop a more positive approach to industrial relations within its organisation – particularly in respect of wage bargaining. Industry-level bargaining tends to weaken management’s control of its wage costs in that the determination of wage rates is outside its direct control and may be inappropriate to its circumstances. Management, by bargaining at the organisational level, is better able to link wages with changes in work methods and increased productivity. (b) Both management and employee representatives become responsible for, and committed to, the agreement they reach. The terms of the collective agreements are no longer decided for them by people outside the organisation and over whom they have little direct control. However, organisational-level bargaining may also present some problems: (a) In the area of pay bargaining, it may provide greater scope for comparability’ inflation.

The granting of a pay increase in one organisation, because of changes in work methods can easily give rise to expectations that similar increases will be given in the future or in other organisations. It provides the opportunity for the development of a key bargaining’ strategy on the part of trade unions; that is, selecting one organisation which can afford the pay increase and than trying to achieve the same level of pay in other organisations. (b) The existence of too many small bargaining units, each with its own separate agreement, can lead to constant comparability claims between the various groups. (c) Because of the multiplicity of negotiations and agreements, organisational bargaining is less susceptible than industry bargaining to external verification and regulation during periods of income policy. So far as industry bargaining is concerned it is important to distinguish between three potential roles for industry-level bargaining: (a) It may determine actual rates to be paid – as in the public sector.

(b) It may act as a floor. Elliot explains this situation as follows: when national rates rise all workers who currently enjoy rates in excess of the nationally agreed rate have their rates adjusted upwards either to re-establish some fixed relationship with the nationally agreed rate or because the change in the national rate provides the agreed signal for a change in workplace rates. (c) It may act as a safety net. Elliot states that in this situation the industry level provides only some agreed minimum below which nobody will be allowed to fall’ and therefore any increase in the national rate will only affect those who were marginally above the old national rate but are now below the new national rate. Legal support for trade union recognition was introduced quite late in Britain. Even as late as the 1960s the TUC could argue that trade unions in Britain have succeeded through their own efforts in strengthening their organisation and in obtaining recognition, not relying on the assistance of government through legislation’. However, by that time, changes in the labour market away from manual to non-manual employment and the decrease in employment in industries with high trade union densities indicated that the historical base for trade unionism in the private sector was eroding.

The repeal of the statutory recognition procedure in 1972 did not dramatically affect the statutory trade union rights to disclosure of information, consultations over redundancies, transfers of the undertaking, health and safety pensions as well as the right to time off for trade union duties and the right to appoint safety representatives. For while all these rights presuppose that a trade union has been recognised by the employer for the purposes of collective bargaining, it is not necessary for the recognition to have been granted under the s. 11 procedure. The Employment Protection Act 1975 also included a statutory trade union right to disclosure of information for the purposes of collective bargaining, which has been retained. Contained now in s 181 of TULR(C)A, this trade union right requires employers to disclose information in connection with collective bargaining.

One reason for this legislation is that it is not simply an advantage for trade unions in the bargaining process. It is also useful to prompt employers to present information in such a way as to produce more realistic demands by trade unions by convincing them to take into greater account the economic problems of the firm. Employers do not have to provide original documents, or even copies of original documents, but are entitled to prepare information in a special form to be disclosed to trade unions. A recognised, independent trade union is entitled to all information relating to the employer’s undertaking as is in his possession, which applies to any stage of collective bargaining. Another statutory right of trade unions is the right for collective consultation over redundancies. Employers are required to consult with recognised trade unions to notify the government in advance of redundancies. Under s 188 of TULR(A) an employer who proposes to make one or more employees redundant has an obligation to inform and consult about such a decision with a trade union which has been recognised for collective bargaining for that grade of employee.

In addition to the obligation to consult recognised trade unions, employers are required to notify the DE when they propose to dismiss ten or more employees for redundancy (s 193). The idea behind this provision is to put the DE in a position to help to place redundant employees in new jobs or in government retraining courses. Section 168(1) of TULR(C)A entitles employees who are officials of an independent recognised trade union to have reasonable time off with pay to carry out any duties, as such an official, which are concerned with either negotiations with the employer related to collective bargaining matters for which the trade union has been recognised (s 168(1)(a)) or the performance of trade union functions agreed with the employer (s 168(1)(b)) and to receive training in issues of industrial relations relevant to his duties concerned with the collective bargaining matters in s 168(1). The Code of Practice clearly indicates that the purpose of the section is to extend the rights of trade union representatives at work place level within a framework agreed between management and the union. It promotes the idea that managers should give shop stewards facilities including office space and that employers should allow paid time off for a wide range of trade union sponsored training.

In conclusion we may say that legislation still prones obstacles in the way of trade union renovation in new areas and increasing trade union membership. More precisely, the narrowing of trade union immunities has created difficulties for trade unions to use secondary industrial pressure. Moreover, it encourages employer policies of derecognition and decollectivisation. While the scale of collective bargaining in the 1990s is under threat owing to the changing attitudes of employers who take in consideration the centrality and significance of collective bargaining arrangements with their organisation, it is still the case that more than 60% of the work force are covered by collective arrangements. Business.