Getting Help With Blockages

Negotiating an agreement can be frustrating if key issues for both sides become sticking points. An impasse eventuates because the parties can’t see much point proceeding if big ticket items are unresolved.

When a large newspaper company faced this dilemma, it decided to get help from the Fair Work Commission to see if using its powers to assist negotiating parties would help break the deadlock. The commission convened a number of conferences and eventually, to assist the parties, published an Opinion, setting out some guides and pointers for the negotiating team to consider.

Essentially the commission acted as independent broker in an attempt to get the negotiations moving again, and in the process, the commission in this case, made some pragmatic and common-sense observations.

The experience of commission members is extensive and bargaining representatives including employers have access to that expertise through the commission’s powers to assist parties in a bargaining dispute. The environment of the FWC itself can sometimes provide the catalyst to overcoming a stalemate.

Only if the parties themselves agree can the commission move to arbitrate in these situations. Employers should not rush to the commission in a bargaining dispute, but the capacity to engage other parties in that process needs to be kept in mind if a blockage occurs.

West Australian Newspapers Ltd [2016] FWC 2726 (2 May 2016)

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