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Tips to Successfully Gaining Concessions From Your Union Without a Strike

One of the most difficult tasks for management to accomplish successfully without conflict often presents itself during economic recessions: The need to go to a union and request concessions or “give backs”. This usually occurs during negotiations upon contract expiration but can also take place during negotiation of an initial contract or even mid-term. The traditional approach usually involves a request for re-negotiation of wages. This is generally countered by a strike threat. It is clear that this tactic will provoke a confrontation which can lead to extended, negative, and unpredictable results. I have found in over 30 years of experience that utilizing a more thoughtful and strategic approach yields results that are less negative and destructive.

How do you do this?

  1. First, management must clearly know what it wants and why
  2. Management must be able to articulate this need in very clear and basic language — it is important to define the problem
  3. Be able to demonstrate how the requested concession will actually solve the problem
  4. Be able to support your position with facts and figures — provide the union (i.e. its auditor) with complete access to all relevant information; transparency is crucial
  5. Be prepared to answer the inquiry “…if we give up what you request, when will we get it back?”
  6. Be prepared to answer the last question in the equation – “What else will you give us?” This may take the form of some sort of enhanced job security during the term of concessions or something new like implementation of “Gain Sharing”

This article is part of the Business Advisor Quarterly newsletter from Offit Kurman.  You can view the entire newsletter here.