Collective Bargaining: Policies and Practices06/12/2022
Theories of Collective Bargaining:
There are three important concepts on collective bargaining which have been discussed as follows:
- The Marketing Concept and the Agreement as a Contract:
The marketing concept views collective bargaining as a contract for the sale of labour. It is a market or exchange relationship and is justified on the ground that it gives assurance of voice on the part of the organised workers in the matter of sale. The same objective rules which apply to the construction of all commercial contracts are invoked since the union-management relationship is concerned as a commercial one.
According to this theory, employees sell their individual labour only on terms collectively determined on the basis of contract which has been made through the process of collective bargaining.
The uncertainty of trade cycles, the spirit of mass production and competition for jobs make bargain a necessity. The trade union’s collective action provided strength to the individual labourer.
It enabled him to resist the pressure of circumstances in which he was placed and to face an unbalanced and disadvantageous situation created by the employer. The object of trade union policy through all the maze of conflicting and obscure regulations has been to give to each individual worker something of the indispensability of labour as a whole.
It cannot be said whether the workers attained a bargaining equality with employers. But, collective bargaining had given a new- relationship under which it is difficult for the employer to dispense without facing the relatively bigger collective strength.
- The Governmental Concept and the Agreement as Law:
The Governmental Concept views collective bargaining as a constitutional system in industry. It is a political relationship. The union shares sovereignty with management over the workers and, as their representative, uses that power in their interests. The application of the agreement is governed by a weighing of the relation of the provisions of the agreement to the needs and ethics of the particular case.
The contract is viewed as a constitution, written by the point conference of union and management representative in the form of a compromise or trade agreement. The agreement lays down the machinery for making executing and interpreting the laws for the industry. The right of initiative is circumscribed within a framework of legislation.
Whenever, management fails to conform to the agreement of constitutional requirements, judicial machinery is provided by the grievance procedure and arbitration.
This creates a joint Industrial Government where the union share sovereignty with management over the workers and defend their group affairs and joint autonomy from external interference.
- The Industrial Relations (Managerial) Concept as Jointly Decided Directives:
The industrial relations concept views collective bargaining as a system of industrial governance. It is a functional relationship. Group Government substitutes the State Government. The union representative gets a hand in the managerial role. Discussions take place in good faith and agreements are arrived at. The union joins with company officials in reaching decisions on matters in which both have vital interests. Thus, union representatives and the management meet each other to arrive at a mutual agreement which they cannot do alone.
To some extent, these approaches represent stage of development of the bargaining process itself. Early negotiations were a matter of simple contracting for the terms of sale of labour. Developments of the latter period led to the emergence of the Government theory. The industrial relations approach can be traced to the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947 in our country, which established a legal basis for union participation in the management.
Importance of Collective Bargaining:
The collective bargaining advances the mutual understanding between the two parties i.e., employees and employers.
The role of collective bargaining may be evaluated from the following point of view:
(1) From Management Point of View:
The main object of the organisation is to get the work done by the employees at work at minimum cost and thus earn a high rate of profits. Maximum utilization of workers is a must for the effective management. For this purpose co-operation is required from the side of the employees and collective bargaining is a device to get and promote co-operation. The labour disputes are mostly attributable to certain direct or indirect causes and based on rumors, and misconceptions. Collective bargaining is the best remedial measure for maintaining the cordial relations.
(2) From Labour and Trade Union Point of View:
Labour has poor bargaining power. Individually a worker has no existence because labour is perishable and therefore, the employers succeed in exploiting the labourers.
The working class in united form becomes a power to protect its interests against the exploitation of the employers through the process of collective bargaining.
The collective bargaining imposes certain restrictions upon the employer. Unilateral action is prevented. All employees are treated on equal footings. The conditions of employment and rates of wages as specified in the agreement can be changed only through negotiations with labour. Employer is not free to make and enforce decisions at his will.
Collective bargaining can be made only through the trade unions. Trade unions are the bargaining agents for the workers. The main function of the trade unions is to protect the economic and non- economic interests of workers through constructive programmes and collective bargaining is one of the devices to attain that objective through negotiations with the employers, Trade unions may negotiate with the employer for better employment opportunities and job security through collective bargaining.
(3) From Government Point of View:
Government is also concerned with the process of collective bargaining. Government passes and implements several labour legislations and desires it to be implemented in their true sense. If any person violates the rules and laws, it enforces them by force.
Collective bargaining prevents the Government from using the force because an amicable agreement can be reached between employer and employees for implementing the legislative provisions. Labour problems shall be minimised through collective bargaining and industrial peace shall be promoted in the country without any force.
Collective bargaining is a peaceful settlement of any dispute between worker and employers and therefore it promotes industrial peace and higher productivity resulting an increase in the Gross National Product or the national income of the country.
Main Hindrances for Collective Bargaining:
The main objective of developing collective bargaining technique is to improve the workers-management relations and thus maintain peace in industries. The technique has developed in India only after India got independence and got momentum since then.
The success of collective bargaining lies in the attitude of both management and workers which is actually not consistent with the spirit of collective bargaining in India. There are certain problems which hinder the growth of collective bargaining in India.
The following factors or activities act as hindrances to effective collective bargaining:
(1) Competitive Process:
Collective bargaining is generally becoming a competitive process, i.e., labour and management compete each other at negotiation table. A situation arises where the attainment of one party’s goal appears to be in conflict with the basic objectives of the other party.
(2) Not Well-Equipped:
Both the parties—management and workers—come to the negotiation table without doing their homework. Both the parties start negotiations without being fully equipped with the information, which can easily be collected from company’s records. To start with, there is often a kind of ritual, that of charges and counter charges, generally initiated by the trade union representatives. In the absence of requisite information, nothing concrete is achieved.
(3) Time to Protest:
The immediate objective of the workers’ representatives is always some kind of monetary or other gains, accrue when the economy is buoyant and the employer has capacity to pay. But in a period of recession, when demand of the product and the profits are falling, it is very difficult for the employer to meet the demands of the workers, he might even resort to retrenchment or even closure collective bargaining is no answer to such a situation.
(4) Where Prices are Fixed by the Government:
In industries, where the prices of products are fixed by the Government, it becomes very difficult for the employer to meet the demands of workers which would inevitably lead to a rise in cost of the products produced. Whereas the supply price to the consumers cannot be increased. It will either reduce the profits of the firm or increase the loss. In other words, it will lead to closure of the works, which again is not in the interest of the workers.
(5) Outside Leadership:
Most of the Indian trade unions are led by outsiders who are not the employees of the concerned organisations. Leader’s interests are not necessarily to be identical with that of the workers. Even when his bonafides are beyond doubt, between him and the workers he leads, there cannot be the degree of understanding and communication as would enable him to speak on behalf of the workers with full confidence. Briefly, in the present situation, without strong political backing, a workers’ organisation cannot often bargain successfully with a strong employer.
(6) Multiplicity of Trade Unions:
One great weakness of collective bargaining is the multiplicity of trade unions. In a multiple trade union situation, even a well recognised, union with long standing, stable and generally positive relationship with the management, adopts a militant attitude as its deliberate strategy.
In Indian situation, inter-union rivalries are also present. Even if the unions combine, as at times they do for the purpose of bargaining with the employer they make conflicting demands, which actually confuse employer and the employees.
(7) Appointment of Low-Status Executive:
One of the weaknesses of collective bargaining in India is that the management deputes a low-status executive for bargaining with the employees. Such executive has no authority to commit anything on behalf of the management. It clearly indicates that the management is not at all serious and the union leaders adopt other ways of settling disputes.
(8) Statutory Provisions:
The constraints are also imposed by the regulatory and participative provisions as contained in the Payment of Wages Act, the Minimum Wages Act, and Payment of Bonus Act etc. Such provisions are statutory and are not negotiable.
(9) Fresh Demands at the Time of Fresh Agreement:
At the time when the old agreement is near expiry or well before that, workers representatives come up with fresh demands. Such demands are pressed even when the industry is running into loss or even during the period of depression. If management accepts the demand of higher wages and other benefits, it would prefer to close down the works.
(10) Agreements in Other Industrial Units:
A prosperous industrial unit in the same region may agree with the trade unions to a substantial increase in wages and other benefits whereas a losing industry cannot do that. There is always pressure on the losing industries to grant wages and benefits similar to those granted in other (relatively prosperous) units in the same region.
Advantages of Collective Bargaining
Perhaps the biggest advantage of this system is that, by reaching a formal agreement, both sides come to know exactly what to expect from each other and are aware of the rights they have. This can decrease the number of conflicts that happen later on. It also can make operations more efficient.
Employees who enter collective bargaining know they have some degree of protection from employer retaliation or being let go from the job. If the employer were dealing with just a handful of individuals, he might be able to afford to lose them. When he is dealing with the entire workforce, however, operations are at risk and he no longer can easily turn a deaf ear to what his employees are saying.
Even though employers might need to back down a little, this strategy gives them the benefit of being able to deal with just a small number of people at a time. This is very practical in larger companies where the employer might have dozens, hundreds or even thousands of workers on his payroll. Working with just a few representatives also can make the issues at hand seem more personal.
Agreements reached through these negotiations usually cover a period of at least a few years. People therefore have some consistency in their work environment and policies. This typically benefits the company’s finance department because it knows that fewer items related to the budget might change.
On a broad scale, using this method well can result in more ethical way of doing business. It promotes ideas such as fairness and equality, for example. These concepts can spill over into other areas of a person’s life, inspiring better general behavior towards others.
Disadvantages of Collective Bargaining
A major drawback to using this type of negotiation system is that, even though everyone gets a say in what happens, ultimately, the majority rules, with only a few people determining what happens too many. This means that a large number of people, particularly in the general workforce, can be overshadowed and feel like their opinion doesn’t really matter. In the worst case scenario, this can cause severe division and hostility in the group.
Secondly, it always requires at least two parties. Even though the system is supposed to pull both parties together, during the process of trying to reach an agreement, people can adopt us-versus-them mentality. When the negotiations are over, this way of looking at each other can be hard to set aside, and unity in the company can suffer.
Collective bargaining can also be costly, both in terms of time and money. Representatives have to discuss everything twice—once at the small representative meetings, and again when they relay information to the larger group. Paying outside arbitrators or other professionals quickly can run up a fairly big bill, and when someone else is brought in, things often get slower and more complex because even more people are involved.
Some people point out that these techniques have a tendency to restrict the power of employers. Employees often see this as a good thing, but from the company’s perspective, it can make even basic processes difficult. It can make it a challenge to deal with individual workers, for example.
The goal of the system is always to reach a collaborative agreement, but sometimes tensions boil over. As a result, one or both parties might feel they have no choice but to muscle the other side into giving up. Workers might do this by going on strike, which hurts operations and cuts into profits. Businesses might do this by staging lockouts, which prevents members’ of the workforce from doing their jobs and getting paid, negatively effecting income and overall quality of living.
Lastly, union dues are sometimes an issue. They reduce the amount of take-home pay a person has, because they usually are deducted right from his paycheck. When things are good in a company and people don’t feel like they’re getting anything from paying the dues, they usually become unhappier about the rates.
The idea of collective bargaining emerged as a result of industrial conflict and growth of trade union movement and was first given currency in the United States by Samuel Crompers. In India the first collective bargaining agreement was conducted in 1920 at the instance of Mahatma Gandhi to regulate labour management relation between a group of employers and their workers in the textile industry in Ahmadabad.