In the last blog entry, we discussed some of the remarks by Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service mediator George Albu of the at our recent CALMC Membership meeting. This time, we will continue to look at his comments about trends in labor relations and collective bargaining.
One of the trends George mentioned dealt with pay for performance clauses in contracts. While labor originally opposed these measures, today they are generally accepted and commonplace. The exception is in agreements with teachers’ unions, where performance measures are more difficult to quantify.
Another trend that has impacted many workers is the loss of defined benefit pension systems. Dr. Albu stated he believes these pension programs will not exist in a few years, having been replaced by defined contribution programs such as 401-K plans. He discussed the impact this will have on workers, whose ability to retire will hinge on the fluctuations of the stock market.
George also discussed the impact of modern communications and information availability on the bargaining process. He recalled a bargaining session in which a new proposal had been presented by management. Immediately after it was presented, the union team tweeted the details to their members and asked for their input. Within moments, the union knew the feeling of their membership about the ideas and could gauge their response accordingly.
In other situations, information could be retrieved, costs determined, or comparative data could be found during a bargaining session. The near immediate access to any information has changed the way bargaining is conducted.
George also discussed the lingering impact of the recession on bargaining and the labor environment. He noted that employers learned increases in productivity meant they could get the same production levels from fewer employees. It also enabled them to survive while cutting costs. Now that the economy is improving, these employers will not be in a hurry to restore jobs they had cut. While Dr. Albu expects a steady increase in employment, he believes it will be slow.
George concluded his remarks with the statement, “There are two kinds of companies: Those that change and those that disappear.” At CALMC, we absolutely agree. That is why we help organizations identify and resolve the issues that keep them from being as strong as they can be.
Next time, we will look at the comments of our other speaker, Brian Eastman of the State Employment Relations Board.