Collective Bargaining: What Challenges Are Employers Facing in 2020


December 3, 2020

People Signing Papers Adjusting a Collective Bargaining Agreement During COVID Can be a Delicate Balancing Act

Many employers are faced with making necessary changes to their collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) during the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses that employ unionized workers have likely had to review their existing CBAs, with unions pushing for change.

The pandemic has created a difficult situation for both businesses and employees as they attempt to maintain productivity and address the many challenges that have developed as a result of COVID-19.

Safety - The Top Priority for Collective Bargaining Efforts

Employers have a legal obligation to ensure a safe workplace for their employees. The language within a CBA will have to address challenges presented by COVID-19 and detail how they will respond to them. This could include how the company offers employees the option for to work from home, enhanced workplace cleaning and hygiene efforts, or provides personal protective equipment (PPE).

Employers will be continually challenged to produce language in their CBA that satisfies a union’s demands and speaks to the open-ended nature of the pandemic itself. Without a specific end date to the pandemic, employers are likely facing difficulties in estimating the costs of protecting their workforces for the indefinite future.

Microscope Compensation Under the Microscope During Collective Bargaining

Many unions will push to increase their compensation received. The argument is that workers should be compensated even further for their efforts for coming into work throughout the pandemic. This has been the case for grocers, where their workforces have challenged them to ensure their safety and increase their compensation.

While the demand for groceries has skyrocketed throughout 2020, that doesn’t necessarily mean increased profits for the employer. The efforts to keep staff and the general public safe have proved costly, as PPE, hand sanitizer, and physical security demands have increased, cutting into an employer’s bottom line. For the employer facing increased pressure from a union to raise wages, expect a backlash from workers who fail to understand the increased costs of staying productive and profitable as a company.

Expanded Worker’s Rights During Collective Bargaining

Employers can expect further challenges to their CBA that outlines a worker’s rights during a pandemic. Unions have been targeting issues related to sick leave and health benefits as a point of contention, pushing for compensation if they must self-isolate as a result of being exposed to COVID-19.

In an effort to maintain operations, many employers have incorporated health screening tools and access control to prevent the spread of the virus while spending large amounts of money on improved ventilation systems. Balancing the costs of altering a workplace while enhancing employee benefits and sick leave may prove problematic during further negotiations.

Man in casual suit Employment Protection is a Focal Point in Collective Bargaining

The goal for many unions is to ensure that employees are not laid off and can continue to make a living despite the ongoing pandemic. As business owners calculate the financial losses attributed to COVID-19, layoffs will become a necessary evil in order to keep functioning.

This could cause complications during the negotiation process, leaving employers attempting to fulfill their obligations of providing a safe workforce but managing the many financial losses and costs associated with the pandemic.

Navigate Labor Negotiations and Collective Bargaining with AFIMAC

AFIMAC can provide full-service solutions to any labor disruption or negotiation. Our leadership team is highly familiar with labor disruptions and CBA negotiations and can help guide any corporation, big or small, to navigate the process successfully.

Services include physical security, picket line response, and close protection services tailored specifically to your company’s needs. Trust the expertise of AFIMAC labor specialists; contact us directly to learn more.
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