Collective bargaining

Good Management or Bargaining in Bad Faith

Historically, trade or workers unions are organizations formed for bargaining for employee benefits. The associations aim at maintaining and improving the personal and working conditions of staff members in an organization. As Kaufman, & Taras (2016) note, trade unions are organizations formed to represent employees and negotiate with employers over job security, working hours, and compensation. Typical of the unions, they may go as far as engaging in political support, in case legislation affects the members as a way of protecting the common interests of its members and for the collective good of the welfare members. Ideally, labor unions and employees are expected to work from the same side of the bargaining table to represent and defend the divergent interests of the employees. By virtue, the unions interact with the employers and maintain constant communication as a way of enhancing their working relationship. After all, employers and employee unions are focused on the same thing; ensuring a continuous improvement of the organization’s operations and sustainable performance. Ultimately, unions are supposed to secure employee interests and enhance their welfare by maintaining a working relationship with the employer. Unfortunately, the case study on good management or bargaining in bad faith demonstrates otherwise.

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Relationship between City Management and PBA

Essentially, Sunbelt City presents the issues that local governments and employees face all over the country. The problem of balancing the budgets and meeting employee needs. Virtually, the organization is confronted with the burden of retaining qualified employees, but incur the cost of providing benefits and incentives to the staff. On the other hand, the organization proposes to undertake hard bargaining with the PBA; unfortunately, the negotiations did not go down well with the city manager who the PBA recommended to be fired. In essence, the relationship between city management and the PBA lacked important elements such as mutual respect and teamwork. Ideally, workers unions and organizational management work better when both parties acknowledge that the other party has a legitimate and valued purpose. By mutual respect, it means that organizational management controls the work environment and resources, while the union represents employee interests in negotiating the best terms and employment conditions. In an ideal working environment, where mutual respect is upheld, negotiations are smooth to ensure that the two parties do not necessarily take a hard stance on the other to meet the goals of the employees. Similarly, the relationship between workers unions and organizational management should be collaborative and not confrontational. Promoting collaborative relationship is more of supporting and fostering open and frequent communication, necessary for enhancing trust between the two parties. Although it is normal for trust levels to be diminished with years of participating in a confrontational relationship, a consensus decision-making model should be adopted to prevent eroding of authority from the two parties. Unfortunately, this was not the case with the relationship between city management and the PBA. More specifically, the PBA did not portray mutual respect towards the city manager as they went ahead and worked the public against the manager. After the city manager was found innocent, they went ahead and instigated the council members to fire the manager as they agreed to the collective bargaining agreement of increased cost-of-living pat and no changes to benefits.

Was the Relationship Normal?

Ideally, the relationship between workers unions and the employers is inherent with confrontational issues as the two parties defend their stand. Most of the times, and especially when one party is not in favor of some changes and the other one is opposed to it. From this angle, the confrontational relationship between city management and the PBA was normal. However, what was not normal was escalating the issue to the point of inciting the public against the town manager and even instigating the council members to fire the manager; more so because the PBA went ahead and approved the same proposal that the city manager proposed. In essence, the PBA failed to consider the elements of collective bargaining and good management.

Collective Bargaining

At a time where the public is ready to blame public employees for their problems, the workers union should be anything but effective in being the go-between the two parties. Employee unions are expected to be responsive to the economic reality facing their state and step up to ensure that taxpayers do not suffer under an added burden. It is normal for unions to communicate and negotiate common employee interests with the employer when problems arise. Ideally, the collective bargaining process often starts with some labor disagreement, where workers do not agree with the organization on a specific employment issue. In the case of Sunbelt City, the process began with the city management choosing a representative who was the city manager to represent their respective interests during the negotiations. Next, the two parties met for a discussion. However, during the consultation process, PBA fought harder than the city manager projected, stirring up public opinion against management. The dispute was never resolved, and the collective bargaining agreement was not reached. Rather the city manager was fired as the PBA adopted the proposal.

Was the process effective?

In a way, the collective bargaining process was efficient, when viewed from the aspect of benefiting the council members. From the start, they were enthusiastic about reducing the city budget by bargaining hard with the unions over salary and benefits. However, when viewed from the perspective of the town manager, the collective negotiation process was not effective because PBA only agreed to the terms of the proposal having the manager fired. Virtually, it is clear that the process did not go as intended as the city manager lost his job. Typical of any negotiation process, the discussion can turn heated and emotionally charged like the Sunbelt City consultation with PBA. As a countermeasure, the parties should have come up with specific ground rules before starting the process, to ensure that it does not fail and the issue does not escalate to the public. Once the details have been discussed, the parties should have been willing to discuss the proposal and explore different potential compromises.

Was Hard Bargaining the best Choice?

Usually, hard bargaining involves making negotiations as difficult as possible for the other party. Hard bargainers withhold information to try to leave the other parties uncomfortable, offer a limited number of concessions, and rebuff requests in a bid to make the others give in to their proposal (Chinyio, Olomolaiye, & Wiley InterScience, 2010). Mostly, hard bargaining makes it hard to use creative problem-solving methods. In the case of Sunbelt City, the collective negotiation process should not have used the hard negotiation. Rather, the city manager should have adopted a problem-solving approach, where the two parties expressed concern for each other and listened to the other’s opinion.

Challenges Faced When Reaching an Agreement

Collective bargaining is a major approach, used to address disputes in organizations (J., Klingner, & Nalbandian, & Llorens, 2017). However, the method is usually confronted with various challenges like in the case of the Sunbelt City management and the PBA collective bargaining process. In light of this, one of the challenges that negotiators are likely to face is resolving core issues. Typical of any collective bargaining process, a settlement aims to strike a compromise by identifying a common ground between two different parties. Matters concerning individual employees should not be resolved during this exercise even if the issue is extremely pressing. Unfortunately, it seems like the PBA had a problem with the city manager and only agreed to compromise to the demands of the Sunbelt City management by having the manager fired.

Personal and Public factors to Consider during collective bargaining

Bargaining takes place in different contexts, and various factors are likely to influence the situation. Ultimately, it is clear that there is a close connection between bargaining power and the factors affecting the advantages in bargaining (Jones, 2004). In this context, Jones notes that, personal factors represent the personal characteristics of the individual agreement such as personal persistence, integrity, attractiveness, and the ability to display emotion can significantly affect the whole bargaining process. On the other hand, the public factors can be viewed as the environment triggering force and determining outcomes of the negotiation process. Ideally, changes in public policies will have a direct impact on the bargaining outcome and can also affect the ability of the two parties to strike a balance. A point worth noting is that public factors are not typically influenced by profits, rather the desired outcomes are special, and unique aimed at the collective good of the society.


Chinyio, E., Olomolaiye, P. O., & Wiley InterScience (Online service). (2010). Construction stakeholder management. Chichester, U.K: Wiley-Blackwell.

Jones, R. J. B. (2004). Routledge encyclopedia of international political economy. London: Taylor & Francis.

Kaufman, B. E., & Taras, D. G. (2016). Nonunion employee representation: History, contemporary practice, and policy. London : Routledge.

Klingner, D. E., Nalbandian, J. & Llorens, J., (2015). Public personnel management: Contexts and strategies. New York : Routledge.

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