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Managing Union Backlash During Labor Negotiations
February 16, 2021
Act Accordingly During Your Labor Negotiations
Employers and unions have been scrambling to maintain their levels of productivity while taking steps to ensure the safety of all parties involved. With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers have had extended conversations with employee unions to discuss an appropriate response to the pandemic along with fair compensation. These negotiations, which are now conducted remotely, have resulted in significant backlash from employees refusing to go to work and challenging employers for more benefits and further compensation.
Expect a Sharp Reaction From Unions During Labor Negotiations
Employers have a legal obligation in North America to provide a safe workspace for their employees. COVID-19 has challenged many corporations to adapt quickly to implement safety procedures while conducting both furloughs and layoffs to keep their business running. Unions have had a sharp response to these changes and have engaged employers in impact bargaining and further negotiations to change the language in their collective bargaining agreements to better address the nature of work that has arisen in 2020.
Employers are often unsure of what they can and cannot do during a contentious labor negotiation with a union. Many unions have reacted negatively to layoffs and other cuts, sparking backlash not just from employees but also from the general public. While many managers might opt to keep their lips sealed regarding labor relations, there are ways for employers to manage the backlash and ensure that ongoing labor negotiations move on favorably.
The Ugly Side of Labor Negotiations
Legally, employers are unable to threaten closure or mass layoffs during negotiations. The National Labor Relations Act in the United States details how employers can respond to union demands, drawing a line between what an employer can legally do in these circumstances. For example, employers cannot interrogate or pressure employees to disclose union efforts or monitor or survey workers to learn more about upcoming negotiations.
In order to manage the backlash of a union, employers are best to tell the truth regarding their experiences with these heated negotiations. Instead, explain that their negotiation efforts may not guarantee better wages, using concrete examples from the past. Influencing and communicating facts will always be a better alternative as opposed to any form of bullying or intimidating staff.
Picket Lines and New Challenges for Employers
Look to actively engage in negotiations while showing an interest in bringing resolution to any labor disruption. Picket lines can often bring great chaos to your organization by closing roads, restricting traffic, and creating tension between picketers and the general public. Often when picket lines become too disruptive, a physical security presence is needed to ensure everyone’s safety. Labor unions will often solicit sympathy from the general public in hopes of putting pressure on the employer.
With this year’s social distancing requirements, digital picket lines are becoming increasingly popular and are organized through video conference calls and social media platforms. Many experts would argue that these demonstrations can gain more attention online and expose grievances to the general public that typically wouldn’t have been shared during an in-person protest.
When Labor Negotiations Turn Heated
Aggressive tactics utilized by unions might come in the form of personal attacks or threats of violence against an employer. Employees might feel angry or frustrated and act out, causing property damage, or committing vandalism. Employers are encouraged to keep a cool head during these times and not hold grudges against individual members of the union who have acted inappropriately. Any rudeness or inappropriate behavior will be heavily documented by union members and likely used as leverage later in negotiations.
Attempt to be the voice of reason and avoid any knee-jerk type of reaction. Union members will be quick to point out any misbehavior on your end; a cool-headed response will prove beneficial should either party take legal action. Keep lines of communication open, provide facts, and attempt to be the more responsible and well-mannered party during the process.
Trust AFIMAC to Help Guide You Through Any Labor Negotiation
Trust the experience of AFIMAC to help your corporation, big or small, navigate the challenges of labor negotiations.
Contact us directly to learn more.