Enterprise bargaining, especially the first time around, can be an overwhelming experience. Even more so if it is initiated by a well-resourced union. There are so many angles to cover, interests to serve, rules and regulations to observe. So where to start?
Your team needs to be prepared
An informed, capable team will greatly enhance the chances of a successful outcome. It is vital that your team knows what to do and understands the objectives of the bargaining process. Usually a bargaining team will consist of HR, line management representatives in conjunction with an external professional to back you up. It is well worth investing in some training to get everyone feeling confident about the best way to navigate what can be a complex process.
Good training will put you on the front foot
Knowledge is power. Investing in training will ensure your team knows how to handle claims and counter-claims, as well as the legal jargon that may get thrown at them. It will help you stay on track and avoid classic pitfalls. And, importantly it will show you how to organise the process so that it is efficient and proceeds in a linear fashion with structure and purpose.
Know your goals
So, it is fundamental that those engaged in bargaining are well-informed not just of the legal processes, but more importantly, exactly what it is that they are about to undertake. So right at the start, the senior management group needs to articulate the goals of bargaining – what is the organisation going to get out of the agreement. There needs to be an appreciation that bargaining is not merely a process, it is a device designed to bring mutual advantages to the bargaining sides.
That is why the bargaining group needs to be properly prepared, to know the rules and to know how to approach the task so that productivity and enterprise-based considerations are uppermost in the minds of those at the negotiating table.
Find a way through complexities
For many HR and line management reps, the idea of straying too far from award prescription, given the dominance and centrality of awards in Australia, is daunting. Resistance is frequently encountered at this juncture and it can be a serious block to meaningful results. It is a key reason why organisations benefit from training their team before embarking on the bargaining trip.
Yes, it is true there are rules and restrictions, but they can be accommodated without compromising productivity aims and win-win outcomes. Good training will ensure the negotiating team is not intimidated by complicated layers of regulation, the awards and National Employment Standards. In fact, one of the best side-effects of bargaining for many management teams is some simplification of all that complexity.
The value of a well-trained confident negotiating team shouldn’t be underestimated. Bargaining is not a seat of the pants ride, it is a committed journey with a definite destination. Informed, confident guides and an up-to-date roadmap are essential tools to get there.