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Collective Bargaining in the current volatile environment – Part 2

Editorial Team
Last Updated: 13-09-2021 1:16 PM

Last week I shared the challenges related to collective bargaining. This week I will focus on the strategies that can be used to deal with some of the challenges. Collective Bargaining is supposed to contribute to productive, stable and sustainable commercial operations. Collective Bargaining at the NEC level sometimes takes too long. Bargain at the firm level but ensures the increases given at the firm level are incorporated when NEC finally agrees on something. Have a formal agreement. If the worker's committee becomes difficult – have individual employees sign to the conditions.  Some more specific strategies.

  • Embrace Strategic Collective Bargaining - approaching collective bargaining armed with the necessary information, with a clear understanding of your priorities as an employer, with a clear bargaining strategy. The outcome should be more sustainable organisations.
  • Shift towards bargaining for a total package instead of the current itemized system where issues are itemized 
  • Employers must be proactive. Understand your industry trends and plan in advance. Most negotiations on wages tend to be driven by the Unions. The nudging comes from the Union. Sometimes do it when unions have not prompted for it 
  • Research – More sustainable collective bargaining comes from evidence-based positions by both employers and unions. Invest in collecting credible data to support your positions.
  • Understand in advance what your unions will be seeking from the collective bargaining process. If you have some idea you can establish in advance your capacity to agree or not agree to particular positions. This means you can go into collective bargaining negotiations armed with an understanding of what you can and cannot agree to, and what you can and cannot negotiate upon. 
  • Both Union and Employer representatives need formal training on collective bargaining. Currently haphazard in some sectors
  • Employers must show they have a better understanding of the business environment specifically that businesses go through cycles. Never enter into a CBA agreement that has no life span.
  • Consider using collective bargaining to link pay, and pay increases, to improved company performance.  An outright pay increase (which is what your employees will usually want) simply increases the wage with no operational improvements for your organisation.  It is expressly an increase in your labour costs for the same level of output, service, and operations.  
  • Shift collective bargaining to the firm level where you have more control. Workout a mechanism that still allows you to integrate into sector-level bargaining without being constrained by it.
  • Productivity or performance-based wage negotiations are a hard call at the NEC level. Most unions will resist it
  • The only way to sustain higher wages is to link wage negotiations to productivity or some form of firm performance. The unions need to wake up now or else we are entering another period of massive retrenchments
  • Senior executives must lead by example. Do not spend big on luxuries when employees are wallowing in poverty.

Memory Nguwi is an Occupational Psychologist, Data Scientist, Speaker, & Managing Consultant- Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd a management and human resources consulting firm. https://www.linkedin.com/in/memorynguwi/ Phone +263 4 481946-48/481950/2900276/2900966 or email: mnguwi@ipcconsultants.com  or visit our website at www.ipcconsultants.com

Editorial Team

This article was written by one of the consultants at IPC

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