Volume 12, Number 16 April 15, 2005

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Interest-based bargaining 'a better way' - Daigle

In a move to promote more communication and positive results in campus collective bargaining, the U of S Human Resources Division brought an international authority on ‘interest-based bargaining’ to Saskatoon and invited union and management bargaining teams to attend his April 1 workshop.

Retired Cornell University industrial and labor relations professor Michael Gaffney led a one-day session for 52 campus people, including a few members of either the executive or bargaining team of each of the unions at the University, along with bargaining team members from the U of S administration, Human Resources staff and some leaders from colleges and departments.

Gaffney’s workshop included practical examples from his research, along with bargaining simulation exercises. It was praised by both University and union participants, and they say this should mark the start of more use of interest-based bargaining in negotiations.

The University is either just beginning or about to begin talks with all of its unions, including the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 1975 support staff union, the CUPE 3287 sessional lecturers union, the Administrative & Supervisory Personnel Association (ASPA), and the U of S Faculty Association (USFA).

Barb Daigle, Associate Vice-President of Human Resources, says the point of the workshop was to learn more about how interest-based bargaining can break people out of the traditional adversarial approach to bargaining.

“It’s a better way to bargain. The parties seek to understand each other’s underlying interests and end up with a win/win or at least a partial win/win solution.”

Daigle says in the traditional form of bargaining, each side locks into its position and carries out horse-trading of demands or focuses on criticizing the other side’s positions, which soon turns into criticizing the people.

“By doing that you ignore a whole world of possible solutions.” Daigle says interest-based bargaining focuses on improving communication to “create value”, rather than positional bargaining which tends to “claim value” and lead to a win/lose outcome.

Vice-Provost Jim Germida says the University is serious about wanting to find shared interests with its unions. He thinks one underlying theme is that all parties want to find ways for the U of S to succeed in its goals.

CUPE 1975 President Glenn Ross says the Gaffney workshop “was really worthwhile”. He adds, “We’re so used to seeing unions taking positions, and this taught us to look much deeper.”

CUPE 3287 Chair Brian Zamulinski says the session was “wonderful” and helps people not to narrow their focus in talks.

ASPA President Mike Grevers says “we were quite impressed with both the speaker and the content” at the workshop. Interest-based bargaining has been used in ASPA negotiations with the University in recent years.

USFA Vice-Chair Jim Cheesman agreed the session was “extremely useful”.

Daigle says the University is “committed to a better way of bargaining” by rigorously looking for creative solutions that balance the needs and expectations of employees with the resources and directions of the University.

“The best way to do that is by exploring interests.”

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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