4 Strategies for Collective Bargaining in Today’s Economy
Gary T Furlong, C.Med, LL.M (ADR), 2016
We have entered a challenging and difficult time for collective bargaining for both employers and unions. Shortly following the great recession in 2008, both management and unions reached deals relatively quickly, everyone recognizing the dramatic economic issues the parties faced at the time. From 2008 well into 2012, there was little change. Employers tried to deal with the reality of the recession, and unions waited for the anticipated rebound, assuming it would resemble almost all recessions of the past – a difficult period, a holding pattern for a short time, followed by a return to growth in the economy and a resumption of “normal” bargaining. This time, however, that hasn’t happened. Certainly not in the way it has in the past.
The economy has, at best, rebounded to the level of “treading water”, and bargaining has not returned to anything resembling “normal” for the last 30 years. Organizations are looking for zero wage increases, looking to fund increases from savings within the agreement, and looking for amendments to benefits and pension plans as well. These are challenging and difficult issues, so how can negotiators achieve deals that can be ratified? How do union and management bargaining teams navigate these issues when the economy has stagnated? At times when government revenue is anemic, deficits are up, and private sector profits are much lower than normal? At times when unemployment is steady, but steady at a level that is over 3 percent higher than in the United States? At times when manufacturing jobs, long considered the backbone of a strong economy, have disappeared with few signs of rebounding?
Professional Commitment Guilt and the 24 Hour a Day Workplace
Blaine Donais, President and Founder, Workplace Fairness Institute, and Joel R. K. Moody, Director, Safety Risk, Policy and Innovation, Electrical Safety Authority, 2015
Twenty years ago we used to call him or her a “workaholic.” This is someone who compulsively works long and hard hours, not being able to leave the work at work, but instead fixates over uncompleted tasks throughout the evening. Today it would be difficult to find a professional that does not fit into this category. Some might blame technology for this world pandemic of workaholism. Our work is simply a click away – waiting for us – tempting us to answer that one last email, or complete that one last task.
However, increased access to the workplace from home is only part of underlying cause. Just as important is the culture of professionalism that has developed in the last 50 years. This culture places expectations upon people who act in a professional capacity to put their best foot forward at work.(1) This has led to many positive work dynamics such as proactive decision making, and team-based approaches that focus on taking responsibility for outcomes and upholding corporate values.
Despite all of its positive attributes, professional commitment, also contains a dark side – something we call “professional commitment guilt.” We define professional commitment guilt as “negative self-identification resulting from increasingly unrealistic work demands associated with modern workplaces that impact upon work-life balance.”
This phenomenon is most clearly visible in workplaces where professionals are unionized. These professionals often have formally defined hours of work – in some cases even lighter formal workloads than the average workplaces in Canada. Many of these professionals are entitled to a 35 – 37.5 hour work week.
Director's Note – August 2016
Paul Juniper, Queen's IRC Director
Do you know about Botlr, the robot who delivers room service requests to guests at the Aloft Starwood Hotel in California? How about Brian, a robot that provides companionship to seniors in a nursing home?
Robots are just one example of how technology is affecting the workplace, and changing the skills that humans will require in the future. Globalization and offshoring have also changed what we do and how we do it. How do we continue to develop the competencies we need to thrive through these transitions?
Queen’s IRC has a reputation for providing specialized programs that prepare HR, LR and OD professionals to successfully lead others in a quickly evolving work environment. With over 75 years of experience, we’ve created strong professional development programs taught by instructors with real-world expertise, who combine foundational knowledge with deep-dive experiential learning that reflects current trends and issues.