Collective Bargaining in the City of Spanish Moss in Florida
The process of recognition entails unions securing an official place within the bargaining table. This process varies extensively among various states. One very high-pitched contrast is, those procedures used in the United States and the general process in states within Europe. The European model unites employees at a national level, with industry bargaining for wages and conditions of work. In the model, recognizing individual workers is less or more routine, and generally, there is no legal statute stating that workers have an obligation to bargain with the unions. Therefore, the whole recognition process is voluntary. On the other hand, the American model is indeed is the opposite. Bargaining is mostly done at the lowest local unit, and every facet of gratitude is administered by administrative, statutory, as well as judicial requirements. Largely, the American’s model states that as majority of workers certified by a government agency demands union representation, then the boss must be aware of the union. This is known as “mandatory recognition.”
While unionizing most public-sector workers in America is regulated by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the legality of the scope of collective bargaining for workers in the local, as well as in the public-sector is the realm of states’ local authorities (Freeman & Han, 2012). This assortment of state and local legal context is complex enough, but the topical efforts in Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, as well as other states have left the rights of workers in the public-sector less transparent.Collective bargaining entails negotiation between a bargaining agent and an employer chosen by various employees in determination of employment’s terms and conditions.
However, for state employees in Florida, collective bargaining is offered by the Florida Constitution and controlled by the provisions within Chapter 447 of the Florida Statutes. Florida has a right to work and the right of any person to work cannot be denied on the basis of membership or non-membership in any organization or labor union. To make sure that there are orderly as well as uninterrupted functions and operations of the government, Florida’s state workers lack the right to strike. Presently, there are seven labor groups that represent State’s Personnel System and workers with classes are assigned to the 13 collective bargaining departments.
Statement of the Problem
This paper examines collective bargaining in the city of Spanish Moss in Florida. As the Human Resources Director within the city and a municipality with 400 different employees, including police personnel, fire department personnel, public works personnel and general city employees, it is important to negotiate collective bargaining agreements on behalf of the city workers. In this case, the 4 collective bargaining agreements are coming up for renewal, and the city manager demands the following from the human resources officer. Because of tremendous decline in city revenue because of diminished home values, businesses moving out of the city and rising operating costs, the human resources officer should increase the benefits during collective bargaining negotiations and propose elimination of all pensions benefits for new hires. The officer should also cut back vacation time from 96 hours to 40 hours per year and eliminate all sick time benefits and propose that everyone accepts a 6% pay cut.
According to the city manager, these cuts are necessary to avoid mass layoffs of police, fire, public works and general employees because the city commission has refused to raise taxes. The city manager explains that unless the human resources officer can accomplish the goals of elimination of the benefits mentioned, the city will not meet its financial obligations and risks being taken over by the county.
After meeting with the 4 unions, union members become outraged at the proposals. They scream and yells and eventually storms out of the meeting. The HR then explain to the city manager that the unions ran out of the meeting without a deal. The city manager gets very angry at the HR and points out that the HR is not doing his/her duty and he/she is incapable and incompetent.The HR officer must get the deal done or else he is the first person to be laid off.
The purpose of the Study
This paper will give a clear difference between negotiation and collective bargaining, the nature of the collective bargain, conditions that will necessitate the process, as well as advantages of the bargain. Further, it will look at strategies, concepts and skills useful by the HR officer and applicable in Florida to bring the unions back to negotiation table and discuss the proposals in a constructive manner and to resolve the disappointment expressed by the city manager.
Negotiation and Collective Bargaining
Collective bargaining entails precisely an industrial relations tool, and remains a negotiation aspect, applicable to the work relationship. As a process, both of them are in principally similar, and the philosophies pertinent to negotiations are pertinent to collective bargaining. However, some dissimilarities exist in that, in collective bargaining, the union constantly has a shared interest because negotiations are aimed at benefiting several employees. Where the collective bargain is not for a single employer, collective interests are a feature for every party to the bargaining process. However, collective interests are less in negotiations in non-employment conditions, or non-existing, except in a situation when states negotiate with one another. Further, in labor relationships, negotiations embroil the interest of the public, such as where negotiations revolve around wages that can affect pricing. This is covertlyac knowledgedas parties seek public support, particularly where negotiations do not work and work disruptions are present. Governments get involved when need be in collective bargaining because negotiations may be of interest to individuals beyond the parties (Doerner & Doerner, 2013).
In the process of collective bargaining some important conditions should be satisfied like the existence of a labor law system or the freedom of association. Additionally, as beneficiaries of collective bargaining daily interact with one another, negotiations happen in the background of a continuous relationship that eventually motivates the parties to determine the specified issues. The type of the relations between the parties within a collective bargaining process distinguishes negotiations from typical commercial negotiations,whereby the buyer can be in a tougher position because he could take his industry elsewhere. In a case of employment relation, the employer is the buyer and the employee is the seller, and might finally be the potent sanction in the trade union action. Regrettably, the term “bargaining” infers that the process entails haggling, which is more suitable to a time relationship like a one-time purchaser or a plaintiff to damages. While collective bargaining may be in the form of haggling, superlatively it should encompass adjustment of the individual positions of the parties in a manner satisfactory to all.
The Nature of Collective Bargaining
According to the ILO Right for organization and Collective Bargaining Convention (No. 98), collective bargaining is a voluntary negotiation amid employers’ firms and workers’ groups, aimed at regulating employment terms and conditions by collective agreements. It is also defined as negotiations that relate to terms and conditions of employment and work between a group of employers, an employer or an employers’ association (Doerner & Doerner, 2013). On the other hand, it involves representative workers’ organizations aimed at arrived at an agreement. There are several important facets of collective bargaining, which cannot be replicated in a sole definition or explanation of the process. It is not equal to collective bargains because collective bargaining is the means or process, and collective bargains to the possible end of bargaining. Collective bargaining may not lead to a collective arrangement. Also, it is a method applicable by trade unions to develop employment terms and conditions of their members. Further,it seeks restoration of the imbalanced bargaining position amid employer as well as the employee. However,where it ends up at an agreement, it transforms, rather than substituting, the discreteemployment contract, because it fails to create the employer-employee connection. Finally, the process is a two-part, but in some countries the State has a key role in conciliation where differences occur, or where collective bargain encroaches on government policy.
Current Trends in Collective Bargaining
Collective bargaining can occur at the national, enterprise or industry level. According to Lewin, Keefe and Kochan (2012), there is no country that collective bargaining takes place exclusively at a single level only. However, in severaldeveloped states, including Florida, the existence of strong employers’ groups,as well as trade unions have ended up in various important agreements concluded at the industry or national level, augmented by an enterprise level bargaining. In America, bargaining at the enterprise level has mostly been practiced, other than in explicit sectors like coal, steel, construction and trucking.This tendency in the last decade, and especially during the 1990s – even among stindustrialized states with a centralized bargaining system, the move is aimed at enterprise level bargaining.
However, Wright and Davis (2014) points out that restructuring enterprises flowing from strong competition has fueled the need to concentrate on creativity level issues like flexible working time, new work organization, removal of thin job classifications, promotion of more involvement of worker schemesas well asdecentralized decision-making. Many managersconsidercentralized bargaining to facilitate more equal income distribution, but deprive employers of the aptitude to use their salary as an instrument for enhancement of productivity and to pay for abilities and performance. The thrust by employers for suppleness in the milieu of growingworldwide competition has brought aboutseveral issues more properly dealt with at the organizational level. Some of the several concerns by employers like quality, productivity, performance, as well as skills development to preserve or gain competitive advantage and to make quick changes to adapting the global market, are likely to boost the move towards more organizational level negotiations.
To come up with a fruitful collective bargain, the HR should apply the following strategies, concepts and skills;
Freedom of Association and Pluralism
A pluralistic positionentails the receptionin a political structure of pressure groups (e.g. unions, religious groups, political parties or business associations) with explicit interests within which a regime has negotiation, with an aim of effecting compromises through making of concessions. Pluralism entails a bargaining process between the groups and the government. Therefore, it recognizes the groups as the balances and checks, which guarantee egalitarianism. It is natural in labor relations within a pluralist society that collective bargaining is recognized as animportant tool for maintenance of stability, while the freedom of association acts as the sine qua non because without it, the interest groups within a society areincapable of functioning effectively. Thereby pluralism upholds that men should link together to advance their common desires and interests; their relationsapply pressure on one anotheras well as on the government.The businessesthat follow help in binding the society together ensuring that stability is upheld by further adjustments and concessions as new links emerge and power moves from a single group to the other. Therefore, there can be no evocative collective bargaining without the right to association accorded to both HR and to the 400 different employees.The four categories of employees should have their representatives, such as the chief officers as advisors in specific related issues. Complications in labor relations calls for a need to incorporate every group in the negotiation table.
Trade Union Recognition
Having the freedom of association prevailing does not essentially mean that there would automatic recognition of trade unions for the purposes of bargaining. Particularly in systems withmultiple trade unions, there needs to be some pre-determined neutral criteria functioning within the system of industrial relations to decide the method of recognition of a union for the purposes of collective bargaining. The acknowledged principle is recognition of the most characteristic union, but the criteria applied to decide it and the individual to do it may differ from one system to the other. In some systems, this issue is determined by demanding the union have more than a specifiednumber of workers in the organization or category in its association. The representativeness can be decided using a ballot in the office or by an externalverifying authority (like a labor department or a sovereignlegal body). There could be a state that once qualified as the agent for bargaining, there cannot be a modification of agent for anarranged period to ensure that the process is stable. Therefore, the HR officer should recognize the existence of the trade unions and listen to their views.
Observance of Agreements
This happens in most countries withmultiple unions. At times, unions are unable to secure compliancewith agreements by their members. Where a system oflabor law provides for sanctions for breachingcontracts, the labormanagement authorities may be unwilling to enforce the sanctions on workers. Where there is recurrent non-observance of contracts or understandings arrived atvia a process of collective bargaining, the party not in defaulting would lose faith in the entire process. Therefore, the HR officer should ensure that they do not default previous agreements with the trade unions.
Support fromLabor Administration Authorities
Support by authorities in charge oflabor administration is essential for efficacious collective bargaining. This shows that that they will offer the required climate for it. For example, they should offer effective reunion services in the event when there is a breakdown in the process, and alsogive the needed legal context for it to work in where necessary.For example,providing registration of agreements cannot support any party in breach of contractsresultant to collective bargaining as far as is feasible.Safe observation of collective bargaining agreements gives methods of settling disputes that arise out of collective bargaining if parties themselves have not provided. Therefore, the administrative authorities within Florida should be present at the negotiation table.
Successful collective bargaining occurs only if the parties in the bargain are in good faith. If not, the process will lack positive results oran agreement. Good faith is likely where some attitudes are shared amongst employers, organizations and workers. For instance,a belief and faith in the compromise value via a dialogue in the collective bargaining process, and in the creative nature of the relation that collective bargaining needsshould be developed. Strong groups of workers or employers add to bargaining in good faith and should be included. This is because of some parity within the strength of bargaining of the two parties.
Good Internal Communication
Both the union and the management need to keep their members and managers respectively well informed because lack of good communication as well as information can cause misunderstandings or strikes. At times, the management andsupervision staff with poorinformation may accidentally mislead workforces working under them regarding the presentnegotiation state or the objective of the management. In fact, it is essentialfor the HR to involve managers indecision making regardingobjectives and solutions because such contributionmay ensure greater reception and better implementation.
The National Labor Relations Act guards the rights of workers to organize and select a union to address issues that regard wages, working conditions and hours. When a union is certified as the workers’ collective bargaining representative, the union and the employer are required to come up and collectively bargain with good faith regarding various terms or conditions of pay. To bargain efficiently, an employer needs to understand the legal obligations as stipulated under the NLRA and appropriately prepare for dialogues so that it can come up with a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that contents its operational as well as economic needs. Also, the HR officer should be aware of an entity that qualify as a shared employer under the extended joint employer test and have bargaining responsibilities as well. Some of the skills that the HR should apply include; good internal communication, good faith, recognition of trade unions, support from administrative authorities, observing previous agreements as well as pluralism.
Doerner, W. M. & Doerner, W. G. (2013). Collective Bargaining and Job Benefits in Florida Municipal Police Agencies, 2000–2009. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 38(4), 657-677.
Freeman, R. B., & Han, E. (2012). The war against public sector collective bargaining in the US. Journal of Industrial Relations, 54(3), 386-408.
Lewin, D., Keefe, J. H. & Kochan, T. A. (2012). The new great debate about unionism and collective bargaining in US state and local governments. Industrial & Labor Relations Review, 65(4), 749-778.
Wright, D. A. & Davis, D. A. (2014). An Exploratory Multi-Case Study of the Perceptions and Views of Academic Faculty Union Members Relative to Online Distance Education, Collective Bargaining & Related Policy. Journal of Collective Bargaining in the Academy, (9), 26.