The phrase collective bargaining is made up of two words – Collective and bargaining – the process is ‘collective’ because issues relating to terms and conditions of service are solved by representatives of employees and employers in groups rather than as individuals. The term ‘bargaining’ refers to evolving an agreement using methods like negotiations, discussions, exchange of facts and ideas, rather than confrontation.
Collective bargaining is a source of solving the problems of employees in the work situation collectively. It is process of joint decision-making and basically represents a democratic way of life in industry. It is the process of negotiation between firm’s and workers’ representatives for the purpose of establishing mutually agreeable conditions of employment.
Features of Collective Bargaining
(1) Collective – It is collective in two ways. One is that all the workers collectively bargain for their common interests and benefits. The other is that workers and management jointly arrive at an amicable solution through negotiations.
(2) Equal Bargaining Strength – Across the table both parties bargain from a position of equal strength. In collective bargaining, the bargaining strength of both parties is equal. It is industrial democracy at work.
(3) Flexible – It is a group action where representatives of workers and management expend energies in order to arrive at a consensus. It has sufficient flexįbility since no party can afford to be inflexible and rigid in such situations. The unique feature of collective bargaining is that usually the parties concerned start negotiations with entirely divergent views but finally reach a middle point acceptable to both. It is, therefore, not a one-way street but a give and take process.
(4) Voluntary – Both workers and management come to the negotiating table voluntarily in order to have a meaningful dialogue on various troubling issues. They try to probe each other’s views thoroughly before arriving at an acceptable solution. The implementation of the agreement reached is also a voluntary process.
(5) Continuous – Collective bargaining is a continuous process. It does not commence with negotiations and end with an agreement. The agreement is only a beginning of collective bargaining. It is a continuous process, which includes implementation of the agreement and also further negotiations.
(6) Dynamic – Collective bargaining is a dynamic process because the way agreements are arrived at, the way they are implemented and the mental make-up of parties involved keeps changing. As a result, the concept itself changes, grows and expands over time.
(7) Power Relationship – Workers want to gain the maximum from management, and management wants to extract the maximum from workers by offering as little as possible. To reach a consensus, both have to retreat from such positions and accept less than what is asked for and give more than what is on offer. By doing so management tries to retain its control on work place matters and unions attempt to strengthen their hold over workers without any serious dilution of their powers.
(8) Representation – The chief participants in collective bargaining do not act for themselves. They represent the claims of labour and management while trying to reach an agreement. In collective bargaining the employer does not deal directly with workers. He carries out negotiations with representatives of unions who are authorised to bargain with employer on work-related matters.
(9) Bipartite Process – The employers and the employees negotiate the issues directly, face to face across the table. There is no third party intervention.
(10) Rule-Making – The object of collective bargaining is rule-making, i.e., reaching an agreement by specifying the rules pertaining to employment relationship.
(11) Safeguard Interest – It is both a device and a procedure used by wage earners to safeguard their interests; it is an institution or instrument of an industrial organisation for discussion and negotiations between the two parties.
(12) Integral Part – It is, moreover, a technique by which an attempt is made to reconcile the needs and objectives of workers and employers and is, therefore, an integral part of an industrial society.
Objectives of Collective Bargaining
(1) To Give Opportunity to Workers to Participate – Collective bargaining gives an opportunity to workers to participate in the programme and put forward their views before the management. The suggestions given by workers may prove useful for the organisation as they are well aware of their true working conditions and have a good knowledge of how work should be done. Without the participation of workers, an organisation would not be able to take correct decision that can benefit its employees..
(2) To Improve Management-Worker Relationship – Collective bargaining makes the relationship between management and workers stronger. Face-to-face interactions between management and workers will remove the barrier between them.
Both the parties will be able to understand each other better. They will try to fully cooperate with each other by hearing the views and suggestions of each other. Workers will come to know the position of the management and vice versa. Each party will know the exact reasons of their different viewpoints.
(3) To Resolve Industrial Disputes – Collective bargaining helps in resolving the differences between management and workers. It brings both the parties closer to each other. Each problem is discussed thoroughly and efforts are made to reach a solution.
(4) To Give Benefits to Employees – This is also one of the important objectives of collective bargaining. Workers need basic fringe benefits like paid time off for vacations and illness, retirement funds, basic healthcare and expanded healthcare with perks. Collective bargaining helps to negotiate over benefits which affect employees.