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Collective Bargaining in Public Sector

A union (labor union) is an organization that is formed through workers coming together to achieve common goals, in very key areas such as the conditions of work. Unions are legally recognized as worker’s representatives in many companies and industries. According to John, (p24) “In most cases, unions are found in the public sector for employees such as teachers, the activities that are done by the labor unions are mostly centered on the collective bargaining over the working conditions, wages, and other fringe benefits that an employee should enjoy while working and also through representing their members in case the management, attempts to go against the contract provisions of the job.” The vital importance of labor unions is to;

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  • Provide its members with benefits that enable the members to have proper wellbeing for aspects such as old age, ill-health, funeral expenses, and unemployment. Most labor unions provide legal advice and represent their members in collective bargaining.
  • Collective bargaining- this is a situation where the trade unions operate with the employers in negotiation of employee’s wages and their working conditions (Roy, J. et al, p42).
  • Political activity- in this case, the labor union activities in supporting the legislature that is most favorable to the interests of the employees. This may even lead them to perform campaigns, lobby, or even support certain candidates in political positions.
  • Industrial action- at times the labor union may be forced to organize strikes or even resist lockouts to achieve their goals. The strikes that they organize mostly come along when the employer has failed to meet the agreements that were made collectively (Charles A. Orr, p66).

The Association between Management and Labor

Neil (p 52) asserts that “There are bodies that are concerned in the activities of labor nation, an example is the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) – this is a very independent agency in the United States whose work is to conduct elections for the representation of labor union.” It’s also concerned with investigations and remedying unfair labor practices. Therefore when a company does not comply with the agreement that was put forth by the employer and the labor union, this may lead to the union calling for strikes and go-slows in the company by the employees. It is the work of the union to ensure that workers are well treated in the workplace and that their working conditions are catered for. Apart from participating in collective bargaining, the trade unions also participate in bargaining strategies and distributive bargaining- this can be termed as “win-lose” bargaining, it’s a competitive kind of negotiation strategy which is used to decide on how to distribute a resource that is fixed an example is a money (Neil, W., p 56). In this case, the parties involved assume that the resources are not enough for everybody, thus the more one of the sides gets the less the other side will get. Therefore the trade unions engage in distributive bargaining for their members for their wages and their working conditions, where money is the main resource that is been distributed (Jennifer E. Beer, web p).

There is a need for labor and management to work together. The management and the labor unions have a mutual responsibility for achieving the laid down goals and objectives. The cooperation between labor and management enhances efficiency and effectiveness as it helps in reducing the number of disputes that are related to employment. It also helps in improving the working conditions, thus helping in the overall contribution towards the kind of performance and the results that follow. Therefore it is important for the management and the leaders of the union to come together, to be honest, and open with one another and through respecting the different interests that each of them holds can build on them. The success of a system of management in terms of achieving its goals depends on the acceptance of both the management and the employees who are using that system. The employees with their union representatives should thus be actively involved in all ways in the development and the performance of management systems (U.S Office of personnel management, Web page).

Union Security

The security of a union is very important; in that, it places the employees that are affected in the labor industry in a position of knowing their rights and where their protection is required. The following are examples of the union security clauses that are there;

Union shop- it is a security clause in which an employer agrees to either hire labor union members or non-members and also where all non-union employees have to become union members within a period that is specified or they risk losing their jobs (Roy, J. et al, p58). Neil (p58) indicates that “National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) has a provision which allows employees to either join the union or pay amounts that are equivalents of the union dues and that those employees that object to the requirement are only forced to pay that portion of union dues which represents the amount of representing the employees in collective bargaining and also in providing services to the employees.” Neil (p62) further indicates that “NLRA puts forth additional requirements before a union can put forth this union shop agreement clause, which may require an employer to sack or even fire an employee that has failed to pay the union dues.” It’s advantageous in that the employees whether willingly or unwillingly are required to pay the union dues that enable their presentation in collective bargaining, thus avoiding crafty employees who like benefiting from others. It suffers the limitation of the sacking of an employee, who withdraws from the union (William, pp40-59).

Agency shop

This is a situation where the employer can hire anyone irrespective of their union membership status and in this case, the employee is not obliged to join the union. According to William (p44)”The non-union employees must pay a fee which is known as the agency fee to the union which is used to cater for the costs of collective bargaining, for an employee who resigns from the membership of the union will not be fired but will be required to pay the agency fee.”

  • Advantage – no sacking of employees who withdraw from the union and also the employer is in a position to hire anyone irrespective of their union membership.
  • Disadvantage – even after an employee withdraws from the union in order not to pay for the union fee, the employee is still obliged to pay another amount, which is the agency fee. , therefore no gain is obtained from an employee who withdraws from the union.

Closed shop

In this case, the employer only employs people who are union members and in case an employee resigns from the membership of the union he/she is fired.

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  • Advantage – only union members are employed so the employer deals with people who already have representatives in the collective bargaining.
  • Disadvantage – sacking of an employee when he/she withdraws from the union.

Dues check off

This is a case where an employer and the union come into an agreement that the employer will collect all the union’s dues, assessments, and fees directly from the union members through deducting this amount directly from the worker’s paycheck (Roy, J. et al, p64).

  • Advantage – the union is guaranteed of getting the fees every month without making follow-ups on individual persons.
  • Disadvantage – the employees whether willingly or unwillingly are deducted the union’s money from their paycheck (Kalman, 52).

The Commitment to Bargain in a Fare Way

The duty to bargain arises in cases of agreement of wages, fringe benefits, hours, and any other employment condition, or the negotiation of an employment condition or even questions that may come along in the agreement of a written contract for employment (Robert, p18). This is done by the public employer and the exclusive representative who have the authority to bargain collectively. Robert, (p21) stipulates that “Employees in a company do have a right to participate in the collective bargaining, of the conditions of employment which is done through the representatives that they chose.” Neil, (p68) elaborates that, “This can be termed as the mutual agreement of the management and the union, for them to meet at a reasonable bargain in a good faith effort of the agreement, concerning the conditions of employment which affect the employees that are been represented by the union.” Michael (p30) indicates that “The final product of the collective bargaining process which is between the management and the union is known as the collective bargaining agreement, this agreement is then taken for a legal compliance review for it to either be approved or disapproved by the head of agency after it has been signed by the labor and management in 30 days and the management of an organization must bargain on the conditions of employment unless the proposal that is given by the union is very inconsistent with the regulation, law or the rule.” These conditions of employment are such; working conditions, practices, personnel policies, and wages (Michael, pp26).

Conditions of Employment

When it comes to employment, the contracts of employment should always be put in writing that means it should not be done in a collective agreement. This employment agreement which is in writing should contain the following;

  • The employee should include his/her names and those of the employer.
  • The work to be performed should be described
  • Where one is working and the number of workers a person is working
  • The amount of salary or wages to be paid
  • A provision for protection in the employment can apply given that the employer’s business is sold out or it is contracted out (Craig, Web page).

There are also the minimum terms and conditions that every employer should agree to as they are imposed by the legislation. The employer may improve the conditions through the provision of better terms if they wish, but the minimum requirements are as follows;

  • An annual leave-the law provides for a minimum of four weeks that are paid after a person has been in employment for one year or if the employee has not been in the employment for that one year he /she is entitled to payment of holidays that appear in the periods of employment.
  • Leave for those in the defense force volunteers and Sick leave
  • Public holidays- for the public holidays the law provides that all the holidays that are stipulated under the Holidays Act must apply. It also provides that if employees work on a public holiday the employee should be paid at least,
  • Bereavement leave- the law provides that where an employee has worked in a company for six months, he/she is entitled to a three days bereavement leave and the minimum wages (Craig, Web page).


Therefore we can see that the relationship between management and labor is very important in the achievement of every organization’s goals and objectives. This is well attributed to the employers agreeing with the labor unions in what is termed as collective bargaining for the better of the two. That the employee gets the best in terms of working conditions and as well the employer able to achieve the objectives of the company. The failure of obeying this relation is what may lead to strikes and go-slows in the workplace which are well supported by the labor unions, who even provide legal advice to their members and can even sue an employer who goes against the stipulated contractual conditions.

Works Cited

Craig Davis. Employment terms and conditions. New York: Cymae publishers, 2007.

Jennifer Beer E. “Culture at work: Distributive bargaining.” New York: Prentice Hall publishers, 1997.

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John Trackman et al. Collective bargaining: principles and cases. USA: Irwin, Incorporation, 1995.

Kalman, Laura. “Review: The promise and peril of privacy”. Reviews in American History 22. 4(1994): 725–731.

Michael, Rogers. Labor relations and collective bargaining: cases, practice, and law. USA: Prentice Hall, 2009.

Neil, W. Collective bargaining. USA: McGraw Hill, 1965.

Orr, Charles A. “Trade Unionism in Colonial Africa.” Journal of Modern African Studies 4 (1966): 65-81.

Robert, B. Strategic negotiations: A theory of change in labor-management relations. USA: Harvard Business Press, 1994.

Roy, Jean et al. Essentials of negotiation. USA: McGraw-Hill publishers, 2001.

U.S.A office of personnel management. “Labor management relations.” 2009. Web.

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William, M. History and functions of central labor unions. USA: Macmillan publishers, 1999.

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