The bargaining table can be a lonely place. Many HR practitioners dread EA negotiations, and who can blame them? Managing the pressure from managers and organisations to “give nothing away”, the sometimes challenging exchanges with union representatives, and a handful of self-represented employees who expect to be taught the bargaining process during meetings – challenging does not begin to describe the experience of an HR professional!

Success Through Planning

What many employers do not realise is that a successful EA process begins well before you even sit at the bargaining table. The level of your success is, in part, a result of effective strategic planning. This means doing some of the work upfront so that your management team are in the best position to achieve an efficient, productive and focused negotiation.

A good starting point is to look at the records you have from previous negotiations.

  • What were the goals of the organisation?
  • What was in the log of claims from representatives?
  • Were there sticking points, and how were they overcome?
  • Were there commitments made for the next round of bargaining?

Now, think about the organisational goals for this round of bargaining. 

  • Have the options been costed? 
  • What might the objections be and how can you handle them?
  • Do you have a communication strategy to keep employees accurately informed?
  • Is your EA compliant with the applicable legislation?
  • Are the clauses easy to understand and have clear intent, or is there room for improvement? 
  • Are there policies that need to be updated in line with the EA?
  • Is the language outdated?

Good agreement planning comes from a balance of HR and operational strategy. You need to be big picture but detail-oriented, practical and resourceful, and be supported by excellent finance brains.

That isn’t all you need though.

Can you think of anything worse than finally finishing an EA negotiation, only to have Fair Work reject the Agreement because you did not follow the correct process?

It sends chills down the spine of every HR consultant.

The Fair Work Act imposes some strict requirements and time limits on employers at various stages of the bargaining process. Lack of knowledge of the technical aspects of the EA process, or of bargaining and negotiation more generally, can be your downfall and will make a difficult process even more unpleasant for you. If the Commissioner finds the EA non- compliant, the employer will be required to make undertakings for it to be approved. The truth is EA bargaining is complex, technical, and time consuming. You simply cannot learn it as you go and hope you can wing the process and terminology.

At Red Wagon, we have been there and done that for both employees and employers. We not only understand the commercial and HR strategy necessary for successful planning but have represented organisations and trade unions at the bargaining table and ensured their technical compliance.

You don’t have to shoulder the stress and risk that comes with flying solo. Contact the team at Red Wagon for a fresh perspective and practical support on how to get the best results.

11 Steps For Negotiating An Enterprise Agreement

The aim is to reach an in-principle deal, and this is achieved by parties exchanging ideas and simply negotiating. No one will ever get 100% their own way, so know what you are prepared to “give up” and move on from, and your non-negotiables. Do not get sucked into arguing for the sake of it. It is a waste of time, energy and money. Employee Communications – keeping staff informed is important that you communicate regularly with employees throughout the entire bargaining process. Let them know what items are being discussed at meetings and what the outcome of those discussions are.

Understanding Both Sides

Your beliefs drive your behaviour. You can have the most well-intentioned conscious thoughts and ideas, but if your subconscious isn’t on board, then your actions and the outcomes that you can achieve can be limited.

What does that have to do with enterprise agreement negotiation?

Let’s be honest, there is a negative stereotype of union officials and union representatives being intimidating, aggressive and hostile. Unsurprisingly then, when you are planning your EA strategy, your communications plan, and finally walk into a bargaining meeting, at the very least subconsciously, you are primed for a fight.

What often follows is a negative experience for the negotiating parties and the employees, the creation of an “us and them” culture between staff and management, and the erosion of trust. Bargaining becomes hostile, unproductive and takes far longer than it should.

At Red Wagon, we understand people and we know business. We also understand trade unions and employers because we have worked for and with both sides. Combined with expert knowledge of enterprise agreement negotiation and a balanced, objective perspective, the HR consultants at Red Wagon are perfectly placed to partner with your organisation through every step of the negotiation process.

Experienced In Enterprise Agreement Planning And Negotiation 

With negotiation skills honed conducting contract, trade and industrial negotiations in Europe, Colombia and Australia, Manager, Workplace Relations Andrea Sumner is confident and effective operating under pressure in changeable environments. This has translated into an affinity for predicting future business direction because Andrea is acutely aware of and can contextualise influencing factors such as the broader political, social, economic environments and technological advancement. An industrial advocate for 15 years, Andrea knows what actions can position the business for success, how to bring opposing parties to an agreement, and what steps to take to achieve constructive discussion and dispute resolution.

Start the dialogue with Red Wagon Workplace Solutions, for straight talking HR advice that makes a difference.