Ground rules

One method for assuring some level of control over the agenda of bargaining is to make sure that the parties agree over procedural matters that can affect the substance of bargaining. It is common for bargaining ground rules to be negotiated prior to the substance of the collective bargaining agreement, either in preliminary meetings with the employer or at the earliest bargaining sessions. Some of the matters that should be addressed as part of the procedural ground rules include:

  • Time, place and frequency of bargaining sessions.
  • Methods of communications between sessions, particularly when the next session is not scheduled.
  • Release time and payment of wages for members of the union bargaining committee.
  • Methods for maintaining an official record of the sessions, if a joint record is to be kept.
  • An agreement that all agreements are contingent upon acceptance of the entire package.
  • Clarification of the authority of the bargaining committee.
  • Procedures for the exchange of proposals.
  • Restrictions on or procedures concerning external communication about the progress of negotiations.
  • Order of negotiations, including the negotiation of non-economic and economic provisions.
  • Caucuses, who can call them, how frequently and duration. No one wants a situation to created, due to poor communications, where both sides are sitting in their respective caucus rooms waiting for the other side.
  • A discussion of how the parties will communicate, or not, with the media is generally the most delicate of the ground rules to manage. In the end, be sure not to trade off or limit your ability to communicate with the membership.