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Avoiding a Strike when Requesting Concessions from a Union

Avoiding a StrikeRequesting concessions or “give backs” – typically re-negotiation of wages – from a union during negotiations can be one of the most difficult tasks for managers to accomplish, especially during an economic recession. This can take place following contract expiration, during negotiation of an initial contract, or even mid-term and is often countered by a strike threat. Because of this ever-present threat, it is prudent for employers to tread lightly with the following considerations in mind:

Avoiding a Strike when Requesting Concessions from a Union

  1. Prior to selecting a bargaining strategy, it is important to identify goals. Management must be clear on exactly what they want and why.  e.g.  Is the priority better economic terms, less restrictive language, or both?
  2. Be able to express this want to the union in an articulate way while demonstrating how the concession will solve the problem at hand.
  3. Have facts and figures ready   that support arguments for the need for concessions.
  4. Know your bottom line and how much flexibility you have. Be prepared to answer tough questions, such as “If we give up what you request, when will we get it back?” or “What will you give us in return?”
  5. Have the right people at the table and strategize to play on their strengths.
  6. Access the level of support for the union among the workforce.  This assessment can often be done by speaking with front line supervisors.  Knowing what employees will support will help determine what to propose –and not to propose- at the table.
  7. Know your adversary.  Are there any intra-union pressures that might help or hinder attempts to reach an agreement?
  8. Construct a financial model that computes the costs of employer and union proposals.  Costing your agreement for its duration will help in prioritization of goals.
  9. Have a contingency plan.   Having a strike/lock out plan in advance is important to ensure that operations continue in the event of a work stoppage.

If you have questions about our blog, “Avoiding a Strike when Requesting Concessions from a Union,” please contact Offit Kurman labor and employment attorney and chair of the firm’s Labor & Employment Practice Group Howard K. Kurman at  He represents employers ranging in size from as small as 20 employees to those with  over 4,000 employees in diverse industries nationwide.

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Tips to Successfully Gaining Concessions From Your Union Without a Strike