Collective bargaining realities – Part 2

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Just what is collective bargaining is all about? Well, it is commonly known as denoting negotiations looking forward to a collective agreement. Does it end with the signed agreement? Nope. In fact the signed agreement is just the first chapter in the colourful and exciting relationship of the employee and the employer. It will lead to another chapter and then to another chapter, until the final or conclusion and that is when the employment is severed, either voluntary or involuntary severance. It is a continuous process so to speak. It requires that both parties (the official representative/s of the workers or employees and the employer) deal with each other with open and fair minds to achieve stability and equilibrium in their relationship, creating what we call – industrial peace. In fact it is a shared responsibility of both the employees and the employer.

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A collective bargaining admits related processes – first, the negotiation between the official representatives of the Union and Management over important aspects of employment like wages or salaries and other benefits, monetary or otherwise, hours of work that touches on work on rest days and holidays, and such other terms of employment like a leave with or without pay; and second, the preparation and signing of the contract the contents of which were consciously agreed between the parties, in fact duly ratified by the majority of the employees. To some extent, the third involves the negotiation of almost any question arising as to the correct interpretation or application in the implementation of the contract or agreement. More often, at the plant level, the employee and management disagree on how to implement a particular and specific item in their agreement. And other part of the process is the negotiation of new provisions or amendment thereto, or entirely new agreement. This can be experienced when, because of the changing times, a particular benefit that was negotiated before is now obsolete that implementing it at present will render it absurd. Again, as I have said previously, in labor law, the only permanent thing is change.

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A signed collective bargaining agreement or contract is more than a contract. It practically covers the entire gamut of employment relationship that demands or prescribes the rights and duties of the employees and the Union and the Employer. In fact, the word “complete” practically described it perfectly – that it has a process in itself, a self-governing with a “grievance machinery” as its working platform. Every time there is a conflict or matter to be resolved, the agreement is there providing how it should be resolved or close. The beauty of this system is that there is the opportunity for both the employer and the employee to resolve it themselves without resorting to other parties. Of course this is another so-called mini-negotiation. It is very important to note that it provides an orderly procedure by which each side can offer or present to the other the best possible resolution for the satisfaction of a particular demand/s. While there is no guarantee of an agreed solution or outcome, the process of negotiation creates at least the possibility that each side may move closer to the attainment of its own separate objectives while contributing to the attainment of those that are shared with each other side. But at the end both parties will find ways and means to solve the concern satisfying their own interests. In fact this process is being adopted now by our clogged judicial system in the so-called “alternative dispute resolution,” an innovation that is creating a faster rate of de-clogging the dockets of the courts.

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All of these principles and notes are in play now in the establishment I am working. We are privileged as a worker to have provided by our employer free housing, free provision of water, free power or electricity, free schooling of our legal dependents in primary and secondary levels, with a community that is dynamic and diverse cutting across the entire archipelago of our dear country. And the negotiation for a new collective bargaining agreement for the employees is finally gearing to start. Exciting days ahead of good display of warm, cooperative, and open atmosphere in labor and management relations.

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In the next issue, we shall tackle the matter on how do we protect our body health or shall we say maintain it without resorting to harmful products in the market. Kelangan daw ngayon ay empowerED ka palagi. Have a satisfying weekend everyone!

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