Sunday, April 15, 2012

Negotiations - Yay!

True - most people that are actually involved in annual negotiations are not probably kicking up their heels in celebration.  Whether it is in the school system (like I am) or in any other industry, negotiation of contracts does not typically elicit a positive, warm and fuzzy feeling.  Many people envision this conversation as a necessary evil of doing business - a distasteful aspect of the interaction of management and labor.

In all honesty, that is too bad.  What we really have is an opportunity for individuals representing different perspectives to get together and find solutions to what appears to be a problem:  "We want it" vs. "We don't want to give it."  Now, I'm not saying that the process should cause us to get all tingly and happy, because no matter how hard I try to envision that, I just don't see it happening.  I am, however, saying that it makes sense that reasonable people sitting around a table should be able to logically discuss and identify means to come together...if that is truly the goal.  If the goal is to "get as much as we can" or "give as little as we can" it isn't going to work.

With an open mind, I would believe that logically:
  • Labor would like individuals to financially keep up with the cost of living and maybe a little bit more.
  • Management would like to stabilize costs from one year to the next.
  • Labor would prefer to enter each day with an ability for flexibility.
  • Management would choose to have as much time dedicated to productivity as possible.
  • Labor would like to have a sense of security in their jobs continuing.
  • Management typically enjoys the ability to remove those not meeting expectations.
  • Labor is supported when competent and capable individuals are working along side each other.
  • Management weighs the number of competent employees against the level of compensation for each employee.
None of those concepts are (to my personal belief) beyond the scope of logic.  None are without reason.  The only part that becomes difficult is that, as you can see, they normally appear to be in conflict with each other (give and get). 

As a representative of the management side of the discussion, it is actually logical that we approach it in a manner of providing a competitive and attractive salary and benefit package to our employees while protecting the fiscal resources necessary to maintain our viability into the future.  Similarly the terms of the contract should promote security in doing those things necessary to make the job and life of each employee productive.  This includes leaves, procedures, and protocols intended to allow ownership and responsibility of those individuals that comprise the whole organization.  At the same time, it must provide a system to ensure that these trusts are not abused for the gain of one or some at the detriment to others. 

So there are clearly two paths that must be considered when approaching negotiations.  It may be, however, that the two paths are not actually in conflict but parallel in thinking.  It would be my belief that conversations with both management and labor would produce the above results.  Labor would want to provide a good living and work environment for employees, while maintaining the longevity and protection of the organization.  That means an employment that is fair and continuing.  Management would wish to provide the same with the concept of attracting and retaining the highest quality employees while sustaining a viable organization that provides a good or service to its customers.

The concepts are truly not that distant, and if all members of the conversation are able to focus on that aspect of the discussion, it should ultimately result in the positive determination of what is good and best for the organization and the individuals of which it is comprised.



Kastendieck said...

“Start out with an ideal and end up with a deal.” – Karl Albrecht
That is the key to all negotiations that are productive, especially in education.

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