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Conflict management and unions

You are the Owner - CEO of a small job shop machine tool company. You have 35 employees, most of whom are highly skilled machinists who belong to Local 999 of the International Brotherhood of Good Guys Union. Generally, you are an open manager with an abiding sense of fair play and ethics. For this reason, you have been able to attract workers who are skilled and committed to the company's long term success. In fact, labor relations are calm - even harmonious.

For example, contract violations are usually handled between you and shop stewards in a problem solving context with an almost complete absence of acrimony or contentiousness. Now, however, you face a serious and unprecedented issue. Due to an economic downturn, business activity has taken a sharp decline with the expectation that things will get much worse. You have just met with your accountant who has informed you there is no other choice but to lay off people or reduce wages of the workers. Your initial meeting with the union representatives shocked you into reality since it was filled with divisiveness, arguing, name-calling, and even occasional profanity. Things turn much worse in the second meeting since the union lawyers were present. After reading an article by Reitz, Wall, and Love, you are stunned to discover that the deceptive tactics outlined in the article read like a primer for what the union is doing.

The last negotiations ended with your attorney angrily advising you that "you're going to have to fight fire with fire," meaning that business conditions dictate loosening your standards of integrity and honesty in negotiation. The problem is you think she may be right.

1. Discuss of ethical tactics of the union. Be sure to focus on identifying your options given the union's apparent duplicity and lack of ethical standards.
2. Be very specific about what you would do.

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Solution Preview

I am going to give you a plan for what should occur. I did not read the article, but have read much of Reitz work in human factors and negotiation. You may want to look up the reference to make this reply more comprehensive.

First, the tactics are standard and while they seem ethically wrong, they are in fact common. The threatening, escalation tactic is standard in a union negotiation. You do not have participate in escalation in a threatening way, but you can change the escalation to productive discussion and solutions. This is a small shop, so what is suggested may not work in larger environments, or be viable if the representatives are insistent on remaining decisive.

First prepare a plan that works in the best interest of the company and the employees. This can be scaled back hours, reducing wages for some to keep on ...

Solution Summary

A discussion on the tactics, plans, and negotiation of a company with union representatives. Plan based on considerations of employees and company and the needs of both.