What Is Good Faith Bargaining?

Good Faith Bargaining

Good faith bargaining is a legal and ethical obligation in labor relations, requiring both employers and labor unions to engage in sincere, honest, and constructive negotiations to reach a collective bargaining agreement. The concept of good faith bargaining is central to the collective bargaining process and is mandated by labor laws in many countries, such as the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in the United States.

Key Aspects of Good Faith Bargaining

1. Sincere Intention to Reach an Agreement: Good faith bargaining requires both parties to approach negotiations with a sincere desire to reach a mutually acceptable agreement. This means that neither party should engage in tactics designed to delay, obstruct, or undermine the bargaining process.

2. Willingness to Meet and Confer: Employers and unions must be willing to meet at reasonable times and places to discuss the terms and conditions of employment. This includes responding to requests for bargaining sessions and being available to negotiate in a timely manner.

3. Open and Honest Communication: Good faith bargaining involves open and honest communication between the parties. This means providing relevant information, explaining positions and proposals, and answering questions truthfully and directly.

4. Reasonable Proposals and Counterproposals: Both parties should make reasonable proposals and counterproposals that are based on legitimate business or labor concerns. Proposals should not be designed to frustrate or undermine the bargaining process.

5. Consideration of Proposals: Each party must give genuine consideration to the proposals and counterproposals made by the other side. This includes taking time to study and evaluate the proposals, asking clarifying questions, and providing a reasoned response.

6. Bargaining in Good Faith to Impasse: If the parties are unable to reach an agreement after sincere and honest negotiations, they may reach an impasse. However, even at impasse, the parties must continue to bargain in good faith and explore possible solutions or compromises.

7. Refraining from Unfair Labor Practices: Good faith bargaining requires both parties to refrain from engaging in unfair labor practices, such as interfering with employee rights, discriminating against union members, or making unilateral changes to terms and conditions of employment without bargaining.

Examples of Bad Faith Bargaining

Bad faith bargaining, also known as "surface bargaining," involves tactics that undermine the sincerity and integrity of the bargaining process. Some examples of bad faith bargaining include:

1. Refusing to meet or engaging in unreasonable delays in scheduling bargaining sessions.

2. Failing to provide relevant information or providing misleading or incomplete information.

3. Making "take it or leave it" proposals or refusing to make counterproposals.

4. Engaging in unilateral changes to terms and conditions of employment without bargaining.

5. Bypassing the union and dealing directly with employees.

6. Making proposals that are predictably unacceptable to the other party.

7. Engaging in unlawful surveillance or interference with union activities.

Consequences of Bad Faith Bargaining

Engaging in bad faith bargaining can have serious consequences for both employers and unions, including:

1. Unfair Labor Practice Charges: If one party believes the other has engaged in bad faith bargaining, they may file an unfair labor practice charge with the relevant labor board or agency.

2. Legal Remedies: If a labor board finds that an employer or union has engaged in bad faith bargaining, they may order remedies such as resuming negotiations, posting notices, or even imposing a contract.

3. Damage to Labor-Management Relations: Bad faith bargaining can erode trust and respect between the parties, making it more difficult to reach agreements and maintain a productive working relationship.

4. Strikes or Lockouts: In some cases, bad faith bargaining may lead to strikes, lockouts, or other job actions, which can be costly and disruptive for both parties.

Promoting Good Faith Bargaining

To promote good faith bargaining and maintain constructive labor-management relations, both employers and unions can:

1. Establish clear ground rules and expectations for bargaining.

2. Provide training for negotiators on effective bargaining skills and legal obligations.

3. Foster open and honest communication throughout the bargaining process.

4. Seek the assistance of mediators or facilitators to help resolve impasses or conflicts.

5. Build ongoing relationships and trust through regular labor-management meetings and problem-solving sessions.

Good faith bargaining is essential for the effective functioning of the collective bargaining process and the maintenance of constructive labor-management relations. By approaching negotiations with sincerity, honesty, and a willingness to find mutually acceptable solutions, employers and unions can create fair and equitable collective bargaining agreements that benefit all parties. However, achieving good faith bargaining requires ongoing commitment, communication, and trust-building from both sides. By investing in the skills and processes needed for effective bargaining, organizations and unions can create a more collaborative and productive bargaining environment that serves the interests of all stakeholders.