I’m done. I had a long week. Today, for the first time in my career, I told a union at the collective bargaining table that we are headed toward impasse, as close as I have ever gotten to an impasse. While I hope it doesn’t happen, I am very worried that we are headed there. What we presented today was not our last, best and final, but it was damn close.
An impasse occurs when the parties’ positions become fixed such that further discussion will not lead to an agreement. Once this happens, the employer may implement its last, best and final proposal without an agreement. Negotiations must continue, but the employer can set the terms and conditions of employment per its last offer.
Some management negotiators relish the idea of impasse, because it sends a strong message of employer power and union impotence. I do not subscribe to this view.
My clients do not have the money to wage war with a union. I handle counter-organizing campaigns, and try to convince employees to vote against the union within the boundaries of the law. No election where I represented the employer has ever been overturned for misconduct, a record I am proud of.
Once employees choose the union, smart business is to embrace the relationship. The overwhelming majority of unions are reasonable, and want a healthy business to provide job security. In truth, in most cases I prefer when my clients are unionized, because when we do it right, the union helps protect us from risk.
Where there is mutual trust and respect, the union can reduce the HR burden. By including them in things like discipline and terminations, you can show you are playing fair with your employees, and ensure consistency in your practices. If you put the work into the relationship early, it saves stress later. Most employers believe that unions are the end of everything, but in most cases you can manage the relaionship in a way that makes you better off with a union.
In this particular case, neither side is being patently unreasonable, but both are trying to protect their interests in an economically fucked up industry. I don’t fault the union at all, and we have called in federal mediators to help us. We have been negotiating for 2 years, and I have put a huge amount of effort into establishing a relationship of trust between my client and the union, and all of that is at risk.
When you declare impasse and shove a proposal down their throat, you destroy the relationship. I am very afraid of this happening.
I have the afternoon free as they are chewing on our “almost” last, best and final proposal. I am going to look into a couple of things for the Suchaser - audio improvements and window seals.
This ended up being longer than I intended. I hope I did not bore you.