Collective Bargaining

Definition of Collective Bargaining

Bargaining: A bargain is an agreement and it takes at least two parties to make a bargain

Collective bargaining: Are those set up agreements between managements, employer’s associations, or joint employer negotiating bodies and trade unions to determine specified term and conditions of employment for groups of employees. The process of collective bargaining occurs only when a trade union is involved. Hence the term only applies to relations between the employees (trade union) and the employers. It is a long lasting process because once it is negotiated it is reviewed from time to time as conditions may necessitate.

The Nature of collective Bargaining

The nature of collective bargaining is that workers do not negotiate individually and on their own but do so collectively through trade union representatives (officials)

It therefore only takes place where there is a trade union recognized by management. Once there is a union recognized by management, cannot deal with workers on an individual basis.

Collective bargaining agreements should aim to provide the basis for maintaining a good employee relations climate and harmonious relationships with trade unions and employees generally.

Collective bargaining agreements however, can only function where there is:

  • Willingness by the workers and their trade union officials to be involved.
  • The power to force the employer to accept negotiations

Willingness by management to accept that decisions affecting workers must be agreed on between the two parties before they are implemented.

On top of the above, collective bargaining entirely depends on the political climate.

In Kenya collective bargaining has been trilateral for example wage fixing to satisfy the objectives of management, the union and the government. This is contrary to what is in an ideal democracy should be happening where we have bilateral.

If collective bargaining has to be fully effective, a favourable political climate must exist. The particular government of the day must be convinced of the collective bargaining’s positive contribution to industrial peace. If such an attitude of government exists, it will do everything to facilitate the bargaining process like providing machinery for the settlement of grievances and disputes through mediation, conciliation and arbitration.

Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) contents

A collective bargaining results into a labour contract, which is written agreement between the trade union and management. The contract specifies rules and procedures to be followed by both parties during the contract period.

The contract may have some of its contents are:

  • Name of the parties (the employer and trade union) duration to be covered by the agreement, provision for its renewal and signatures of the parties officials.
  • Wage rates and fringe benefits, job classifications and overtime.
  • Working conditions like permissible breaks, severance pay, timing and
  • Working shifts.
  • Union security, like check-off procedures and recruitment of union members.
  • Job security, termination, promotion, demotion and transfers.
  • Limitation of strikes, lockouts and picketing.
  • Grievance and dispute procedures.
  • Managements rights

Basic of Collective Bargaining Agreement

Communication can be seen as a way of communicating workers expectation, fears, threats, anxieties, promises, rights, duties and limitations.

Sanction and legitimization: involves recognition of the power of the employer generally and the power of the same to provide or impose remedial collective or individual punishment.

Leeway and discretion

CBA legitimizes alteration of terms according to circumstances. Inflexible management such as leeway is crucial in allocating work, adjusting labour supply to demands and products. However, leeway may be crucial for management when an agreement gives power without the duty to enforce it for instance rules on punctuality, the right to search workers when leaving the organization.

Employers may use leeway and discretion to favour certain categories of employees at times of peace to please workers generally. In times of tension and conflicts, leeway is used to harass and punish un-cooperative elements and reduce opinion leaders to size.

Ideological function – includes use of contracts to legitimize unequal pay, power relations and also employer’s domination, differential payments among workers etc.

What do trade unions bargain for?

What is bargainable? Mostly this centers around salaries and allowances. However, there is no delivery division between what’s bargainable and what is not.

What is bairgainable is what trade unions succeed in bargaining and what employers concede to.

People bargain for:

  • Allowances: The most impressive benefits in recent times has been paid through allowances i.e house allowances, leave allowance, travel allowance or reimbursement of these expenses.
    • Shift allowance was introduced to compensate for working odd hours e.g night shifts.
    • Employers who do not avail transport and canteen benefits are beginning to offer such allowances for instance bicycle.
    • In some organization newly-employed employees are given graduate allowances.
    • Other allowances include lunch allowance, special duty allowance, cash handling allowance, hardship allowance, entertainment allowance.
  • Bonuses Allowances: This is dependent on performance while in some countries it’s dependent on status.
    • Besides, many companies pay according to overall efficiency or cordial relations or high safety enrolment.
  • Job Security: A growing area of union concern is job security but the increasing rationalization and automation is causing threat.
  • Welfare benefits: These include house loans, pay of life group, accident insurance premium of the employer, education of children allowance and facilities, canteen and death benefit schemes, saving schemes which employers make a monthly contribution, gratuity benefits, paid holidays paternal leave for 4 days provided you don,t have more than 2 children.
  • Other allowances include lunch allowance, special duty allowance, cash handling allowance, hardship allowance, entertainment allowance.

Basis of Collective Bargaining

Collective bargaining process is derived from industrial relations customs or rules or the Industrial relations charter.

Major steps of C.B.

  1. Recognition of each other on the legitimate representation of employers or employees (Recognition Agreement must exist first).
  2. Making of proposals by one party and then counter proposals by the other.
  3. Joint meetings depending on the number of weight of issues.
  4. Failure to reach an agreement leads to deadlock registration thus it becomes a trade dispute
  5. B can’t be compelled, it’s based on the principle of voluntarism.
  6. If you agree on all issues then you sign an agreement (endorsed and sent to the chief Industrial relations officer who looks at the legal and economic implications before taking it to the industrial court which register it.

Collective Bargaining Agreement Formation

Agreed issues are put in a memorandum document when duly signed it becomes a CBA. The CBA will contain specific terms and conditions of employment.

In addition procedures which parties agree to follow in regulating their relationships. This include grievance procedures if one party is aggrieved the procedures for action must be well spelt out.

To be legally enforceable CBAs, have to be registered by the Industrial court. Once registered by the industrial court the CBA binds parties under it. Failure to perform by either party gives rise to a trade dispute which is dealt with in accordance with the Trade Disputes Act.

All CBAs differ in matters of details depending on industry and level of employers concerned.

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