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Job reductions - negotiating guidance
Negotiation is a common part of our daily lives. Negotiating as
a UNISON representative requires the same skills, together with
knowledge and understanding of some of the more formal processes
of negotiation. This briefing provides an overview of the negotiation
process as well as highlighting some specific issues and sources
of information that may be useful when negotiating against job
Building a Negotiating Team
Organisation is the key to effective negotiating over local government
cuts. Before any negotiation actually begins, it is important
to consult and prepare. Good organisation can help to solve the
problem of having too much to do in too little time. The more
people who are involved, and who can share the work, the better.
Stewards should not normally conduct a negotiation alone. It
is always better to have back-up and support and a range of skills
and experience to call upon. Many branches have negotiating teams
made up of branch officers and stewards. Places on the team should
be linked to membership constituencies such as departments, sites
or occupational groups to ensure that the wide range of UNISON
membership affected is represented.
Negotiating teams are ideally made up of individuals with complimentary
skills, including: drafting and presentation, bargaining, research,
questioning and note taking. Teams may also include, or have access
to, specialists in certain areas such as equal opportunities or
health and safety. In this situation it is important to have someone
within your team who has knowledge/ experience of local government
finance, in order that they can assess any proposals regarding
There are a range of useful information sources that may provide
valuable data, including the council’s latest Statement
of Accounts, budget proposals and any relevant spending priorities
contained within various council boards/ committees. It is also
useful to check how any job reductions would impact on the council’s
Single Outcome Agreement (see P&I Briefing 196). Most
of this information should be available online on the council’s
Negotiation – Key Stages
Before entering into negotiations it is worth being aware of what
lies behind this process.
Negotiations are a process of exchange, of ongoing dialogue between
the employers and the members. It is important to keep that exchange
going if there are to be serious negotiations, and progress is
to be made towards achieving the union’s goals. It benefits
both union members and employers that negotiations are carried
out efficiently and for an acceptable agreement to be reached.
If there is a genuine will to reach an agreement there will always
be a need for movement by both sides. Although negotiations may
become difficult, the framework for a possible final deal needs
to be kept in mind.
The role of the negotiator is an important one, requiring some
different skills to those you will have used in representing people
in grievances and disciplinary cases. The union provides training
and backup for all its negotiators, but there are some basic guidelines.
The negotiation process tends to follow a standard pattern, which
falls into four recognised stages.
It starts with preparation. You need to do careful preparation
and research, especially in seeking the views of members. When
dealing with the issue of job reductions it is important to carry
out relevant research such as a breakdown of the council workforce
and the likely areas for cuts (if they have not already been identified).
It is also important to have some information on the impact prospective
job losses will have, not just on service users but also on the
remaining staff who have to continue to provide this service.
This will include implications such as additional workload for
remaining staff as well as examining the job reductions in terms
of equality duties etc.
As part of your preparation you will have developed a strategic
plan of what you want to achieve in the negotiations.
The opening comes next. One side tables a proposal and the other
side responds. This stage can involve adjournments to collect
further information and test out arguments. It also includes identifying
the relative importance of issues, fall back positions and 'bottom
Trading sees both sides trade things in order to move from fixed
opening positions to an agreement: "We'll offer x if you'll
agree to y." Again, there can be lots of adjournments to
explore options, test arguments, consult, etc. This stage slowly
builds consensus and narrows down the areas of disagreement.
Finally, there is agreement, where both parties reach agreement.
This should include a phase where the final proposal is put to
the members and ends with the agreement being documented for future
Further Information/ Training
Training is crucial for negotiators. UNISON Scotland’s Learning
and Organising Team provides a range of materials and courses designed
to aid the negotiators at national and regional level. These are
run regularly and details are available through your regional office.
Further information on the negotiation process is provided in
Local Bargaining, A Guide for UNISON Negotiators (http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/11251.pdf)
and in UNISON's collective bargaining course.
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