The killer bees of bargaining
July 14, 2009
When you consider that an average of 83 percent of an education organization’s budget pays for salaries and benefits, collective bargaining has become a "high stakes" game in today’s school funding environment.
We’ve compiled the following "Killer Bees of Bargaining" to help you focus your resources where it counts at the bargaining table - on higher student achievement.
Preparation is the key to success. Negotiating a labor contract is complex and demanding. You need the following:
- Thorough contract analysis
- Comparative compensation survey
- Recruitment and retention market analysis
- Review of problems in contract administration, and
- Review of changes needed in working conditions to improve student learning
Sweeping contract changes are difficult to achieve, so focus on being practical - not philosophical. What is the most feasible increment of change in the agreement? Push the envelope, don’t puncture it.
Are you traditional? Collaborative? There are several techniques to increase the effectiveness of both traditional and interest-based bargaining. Remember, you have choices. OSBA can help you decide which model works best for you.
Explain your economic situation and bargaining goals simply and directly. Communicate regularly with district staff and your community. Honesty can be the most persuasive bargaining strategy. Support your positions with research and facts.
Be goal-oriented but flexible in reaching your objectives. Look for solutions and compromises that benefit both parties - not just your side.
Bargaining is becoming more complex. Economic conditions, workforce issues and rules seem to be changing constantly, so it’s critical to stay informed. To the inexperienced bargainer, a contract can become a web of confusing rules with many pitfalls. Negotiations isn’t a natural talent - success comes from experience and training.
Use negotiations with the belief that differences can be surmounted and solutions are available. Focus on the solution, not the problem.
Bargaining requires a major time commitment. Be prepared for frequent meetings. Spending 80 to 100+ hours over seven or eight months isn’t unusual.
Select your team as early as possible. Give them time to assemble materials, research the issues and meet with the school board to establish parameters and provide updates. Assign support staff and resources to this team.
Your goals and resources should always focus on improving student achievement. When in doubt, ask the most important question: "If it’s not good for students, then why are we doing it?"
Exploring the benefits of regional negotiation forums
Prepare for bargaining
Tips on creating labor-management committees