This is the second of four parts looking at what’s involved in finishing a negotiation. In this part, we’ll discuss reaching an agreement between the parties with no outside involvement.
This is an article about techniques. Your success will largely rise or fall on your reading of your counterpart on the other side of the table and that person’s ability to make a deal or sell one to those who can.
First Things First – Are You Ready to Close
Sadly, I learned most lessons the hard way, either by my own mistakes or watching close friends and colleagues making them. I’m comforted by Oscar Wilde who said, “Experience is the name every one gives to their mistakes.” In any case, I once made the mistake of signing off on what I thought was the last outstanding language in a contract negotiation. I was in a hurry to get done and move on. When I said to the union’s chief that I was glad to be done, he brought forth two pieces of his language that had been tabled months earlier. In the 25 years since that day, I’ve never bargained without a detailed proposal and counterproposal spreadsheet showing the status of each piece of language that entered or went off the table.
Attached is an End of the Bargaining Checklist. The checklist is my attempt to cover closure issues that must be dealt with or planned before you start to close a negotiation. Hope you find it helpful.
Next Step – Negotiability
When I teach bargaining, I tell the class that negotiability like impasse is a BAD WORD that should never leave your lips at the table even now. Take a bargaining day and tell the union you have “problems” with whatever language you believe violates law, government-wide rules, good taste, etc. Explain in detal why you believe that and provide specific case language NOT citations. They should get the message that should the parties end up at the panel you will raise the issue of the language’s legality and therefore the jig is up on that language.
Next Step – Propose to End Illegal Language (if any) in the Current Agreement
Once a contract expires for sure, and perhaps always, illegal language may be declared to violate law. An interesting tactic is to sever this language from the table by putting the union on notice that on a given date certain contract provisions will no longer be honored. If the union ain’t too smart, it’ll file a ULP instead of requesting I&I bargaining on the change. As Napoleon Bonaparte said, ““Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”
Next Step – Get the Executive Decision Maker(s) On Board
It’s usually senior management that is bugging the Chief to get the contract done. Whether or not that’s the case, make sure they know you’re trying to end the show and that you have discretion to make a deal within certain limits or access to those who do as needed. Let them know that endgames require careful attention at certain times and advise them that you will give them as much notice as possible of those times. If they are lethargic about ending bargaining, take all that A/L you have been saving up and do three weeks in southern France before it gets too hot and while the French kids are still in school (Dream on). Come to them with a plan and a timeline that you know you can stick too or improve.
Make sure you know
• Who will influence the decision-maker and get to them.
• Who your supporters are.
• Who might oppose a given deal.
• What special interests exist.