In unionized firms, Article 251 of the Labor Code stipulates that “it shall be the duty of the employer and the representatives of the employees to bargain collectively in accordance with the provisions of the Labor Code.” The duty to bargain collectively, in the following Article 252, means “the performance of mutual obligations to meet and convene promptly and expeditiously in good faith for the purpose of negotiating an agreement with respect to wages, hours of work and all other terms and conditions of employment, including proposals for adjusting any grievances or questions arising under such agreements, if requested by either party, but such duty does not compel any party to agree to a proposal or to make any concession.” The resulting contract is called the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and is effective for five years.
In our country, the collective bargaining process involves three major stages. First is the pre-negotiation stage, which involves the preparation, costing and writing of proposals and counter-proposals based on the provisions of the expiring CBA, as well as the company situation. Stage two is the actual negotiation where both parties meet face to face to discuss their demands and counter-offers, lasting for an average of six months to a year. Stage three is the signing of the CBA (and its subsequent implementation), once both parties agree on all issues and conclude the negotiation.
My recent experience of concluding another CBA, while representing the employer of an international airline company, made me realize how the element of “good faith” of both parties can really make a difference in the collective bargaining process, especially during the negotiation stage. I have experienced that genuine good faith is relational and comes in these manifestations:
Good faith is primarily a matter of the heart and mind that is open and receptive to the merits of the demands and counter-proposals that union and employer representatives put on the table, with the intent to conclude the negotiation in the shortest possible time. The virtue of patience of the representatives is tested during the series of meetings until a settlement is arrived at.
Good faith means that both parties have the purpose and resolve to ensure that employees get better wages, hours of work and other terms and conditions of employment, considering the present condition, particularly the financial capacity and future sustainability of the firm. Management should be given the benefit of the doubt that it cares for its workforce, and that if it has the financial capacity, it will give what the employees need.
Good faith also means trusting each other on the bargaining table, that the data and other information being shared are valid and reliable. Therefore, proposals should be realistic and focused on concerns and issues of the employees and the company, that are vital and of top priority. Trust also entails that both parties intend to arrive at common grounds that will be beneficial to, and be a win-win outcome for, both employees and management.
Good faith means the willingness and flexibility of the management and the union to compromise and explore alternative arrangements, rather than haggling and threatening to strike or close the company. This allows them to address issues, especially on the wage increase proposals, and to arrive at an agreement in a faster way.
Last, but most important, good faith lies in the integrity and professionalism of the people who sit at the negotiation table. These values seek connectedness, integration and bridge the predominant pattern of relationship, that of containment-aggression, where distrust and antagonism exist between union and management. To make good faith work, both union and management need to possess or develop these virtues, and change their paradigm on how collective bargaining should be done.
Dr. Divina M. Edralin is a full professor at the Management and Organization Department of the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University. She is also the Vice Dean for Research and Graduate Studies of the college. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.