Explore BrainMass

Bargaining and Trade Unions

Scenario: Busco Electric Utility

You are Anita Louise, the very first Vice President of Human Resources for Busco, an Electric Utility company with corporate headquarters in Denver, Colorado. None of Busco's employees are union in spite of the fact that the utility industry is heavily organized; to date Busco has no unions at any of its 8 plants across the U.S., Canada and Mexico. One of your objectives is to assure the company has appropriate programs and policies in place to continue to operate union-free. You immediately are assigned to deal with a potential disaster - Mildred Smit, the recently hired Plant Manager for the Busco-Chicago facility. She reports to Steve Zellner, the Vice President of Operations at the headquarters. The Chicago plant has 350 employees of which approximately 275 work in the plant as skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled laborers. The rest of the employees work in the office as managers, supervisors, and clerical workers.

Through interviews with Mildred and others, you learn the following. Buddy Montgomery is the first shift Operations Manager, who acts as the "team leader" for managers and supervisors on all three shifts in your plant. Buddy is experienced in hiring and safety and is a good leader, who Mildred feels can handle any personnel issues that arise in the Plant. Likewise, she has designated Plant Accountant, Joey Van Cleave, as the "team leader" for office operations to handle personnel issues as needed in the office.

Budgets for the new fiscal year had just been approved. The budget guidelines provided funds for the placement of a Personnel Supervisor at every Busco plant and for a 3.5% pay increase for all the laborers in the U.S. plants.

Mildred believed that a 2% pay increase in the plant will be sufficient. Unlike her counterparts, she planned to save money by not hiring a Personnel Supervisor since Buddy and Joey have handled the extra duties well. She also planned to eliminate the traditional annual plant picnic and only have it every other year. These budget adjustments would have her plant coming in under target for the year and will earn a big bonus pool for her and her plant's management staff. She said she wanted to demonstrate her ability to grow the business efficiently.

Buddy showed Mildred how hiring one skilled laborer on the third shift will save money by reducing overtime expense, so she allocated a position. Buddy extended an offer to Linda Porter, a skilled utility trades person from a unionized competitor across town. He was elated at having been able to hire her expertise for the Busco wage rate that is less than Linda made at her other job. She said she was willing to take less to work close to home. The day before Linda came on board, Mildred told Buddy he must retract the offer because she did not want "any union troublemakers". She explained to you that she was certain that the pay differential will be a problem. Linda did not take the news well since she already quit her former job. Buddy was very nervous, but explained to Linda that "Headquarters wouldn't authorize a budget for the position." The slot Mildred authorized went unfilled.

A week later Joey Van Cleave distributed the "What's Happening at Busco" employee newsletter with a small notice that the annual picnic will not be held this year to help manage the plant budget without wage freezes. There is not much feedback on this issue from employees. Three months pass and the Chicago plant's first quarter actual expenses were well under budget. As she predicted, Mildred's numbers were better than any of the other U.S. Busco plants. Employees seemed to have taken the 2% increase well understanding Mildred's position that everyone has to sacrifice for the sake of job security in these bad economic times.

A week after Mildred submitted her quarter end reports, Steve Zellner called her and you from Corporate Headquarters at the end of the day saying that they received a request for recognition from the Utilities Workers Union. Mildred was astonished, and you started working on this potential disaster. Mildred tells Steve she will talk to the employees about staying non-union and clear it up. You and Steve tell her not to do or say anything until Art King, the consulting labor attorney Busco has engaged, comes and speaks with her about the representation request and the unfair labor practice charge that the Utilities Workers Union alleges. You will assist Art in cleaning up this situation and trying to avert unionization. It seems that Linda Porter, the employee whose employment offer Busco retracted, lodged a complaint with the union. In the course of interviewing Joey and Buddy, they tell you Kendall Leander, a quiet long-term plant worker with a good record, is Linda's brother.

In 1996 a strike occurred at General Motors that left 72,000 workers at 21 of GM's 29 North American auto plants idle at a cost of $45 million per day. With this horrific example in mind, conduct research to see what you can learn about the bargaining process and techniques used and the outcome of all these efforts. Summarize the various aspects of negotiating the labor agreement within the GM situation. Was it a "win-win" result? Did one of the parties lose in the end? Did both parties lose in the end? How can you use these lessons learned in your potential situation at Busco?

The following links will help:
- GM strikers occupy plant, save jobs with contract settlement:

Solution Preview

//Before writing about the process of 'Negotiation of the Labor Agreement', it is essential to know about the bargaining process. One should know about the main concept of the bargaining process, which further will assist in analyzing the mentioned process in an effective manner.//

Bargaining and Trade Unions

Bargaining Process:

In the case of GM, the workers basically opposed the outsourcing contracts of the company because of which many of the employees would have become unemployed. So the workers opted for negotiations and strikes to stop the company from doing so. Collective bargaining is an important tool of the laborers to negotiate successfully with the management. Bargaining is a process of mutual negotiation and discussion between the workers and the management on the employment issues. It provides an opportunity to the workers to present their problems before the employers. The bargaining process helps in establishing stable and peaceful industrial relations in the organization (Halloran & Jack, 1998).

The process of bargaining consists of three steps. The first step ...

Solution Summary

This solution is comprised of a response of about 700 words, including two references. A detailed description of the GM bargaining strike back in 1996 is discussed in terms of the bargaining process and negotiating a labour agreement.