Collective Bargaining 5: Bargaining Techniques
An important tactic in the collective bargaining process is the effective use of a caucus, or opportunity for the union to withdraw temporarily from direct negotiations with the employer. A caucus can and should be used in a number of different situations to make sure that negotiations are progressing in an appropriate manner. Some of the major reasons for the union to call a caucus during negotiations are discussed in this section.
One of the most important reasons to call a caucus is to resolve real or apparent conflict within the union bargaining committee. If there are disagreements about issues or tactics within the committee, those disagreements should be resolved away from the bargaining table. Whenever it appears that committee members are advocating conflicting positions, the union committee should call for a caucus. Internal conflict should be resolved away from the bargaining table, not in the presence of management.
A caucus can also be used as a means of regaining control of the bargaining agenda and controlling the pace of negotiations. If emotions get out of hand, a break in the tension may be necessary. If sessions become too chaotic it may be wise to interrupt the flow. A caucus may also be used to increase the pace of negotiations. If a session moves off course into discussions unrelated to the substance of negotiations, a break in the process may be a useful mechanism for refocusing attention.
Whenever management puts a major proposal or counterproposal on the table, the union should take time to review that proposal. Similarly, before the union decides to revise its position on an issue or accept a proposal put forward by the employer, there should be an opportunity for internal review and discussion of that position among committee members. A caucus may also be necessary for purposes of reviewing the record of negotiations on a particular subject.
Occasionally, a caucus is necessary for reconsideration of the union's strategy in negotiations. This may result either from a significant reassessment of the union or company position on an issue or from external developments that can have an effect on negotiations. For example, if a settlement or strike occurs at a different location in the same community or industry, that event could have a bearing on negotiations.
There is no formula for successful negotiations. The union can pursue strategies and employ tactics designed to reinforce its position, but it must also be prepared to adapt those strategies to actual events at and around the bargaining process. The goal, in addition to settlement of the real issues, is to maintain some level of order in a chaotic process. The more the union committee can do to remain focused on the reason for the negotiations and the ultimate goal of settlement, the more effective the bargaining sessions will be.