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Bargaining 101 #2 How does the Union Prepare for Collective Bargaining?

The information contained in these articles is designed to educate members on the general processes of negotiations for OSSTF/FEESO members. These articles do not contain any information on the current round of central negotiations. For information on the current round of negotiations please see bargaining bulletins.

Well before any proposals are exchanged with the employer, the union must prepare its bargaining positions. OSSTF/FEESO uses a variety of methods to ensure it has adequately captured the voices and concerns of its membership within its priorities and strategy for collective bargaining.

The union prepares by collecting information, analyzing it, and creating formal written proposals that can be passed to the employer.

These proposals are developed by a group, often a committee of members, who review and consider feedback from the membership.  The committee is typically comprised of a variety of members to foster engagement and to represent the diverse interests of the union’s membership. It meets to discuss issues, ideas, and bargaining concepts, in addition to brainstorming potential contract clauses to be proposed to the employer during negotiations. The committee is typically led by the Chief Negotiator, who acts as the lead spokesperson for the union at the bargaining table.

In order to inform and guide both the Chief Negotiator and the conversations of the committee, unions will often survey its membership to determine priorities for negotiations. The survey helps both identify and quantify the priorities and goals for the union in bargaining, and can also help provide a lens through which equity, anti-racist, and anti-oppressive positions can be drafted.  These priorities cannot be shared with the employer and must be held strictly confidential.

The end result of all of these discussions is the creation of a written document, known as the “Bargaining Brief,” which is one of the most important documents guiding collective bargaining. It is what contains the series of formalized proposals that will be exchanged with the employer, and identifies what the union asks are. Creating the brief is one of the most significant tasks in preparing for bargaining.

In the next issues: What is a bargaining priorities survey? What is a bargaining brief?

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