WHAT SHOULD A GREAT MID-TERM NEGOTIATIONS TRAINING PROGRAM INCLUDE?
The vast majority of negotiations in the federal sector involve an agency-proposed mid-term change, and in the overwhelming majority of those cases the union representatives are not full-time national staff, but local leaders. Unfortunately, those local leaders are lucky to get between 4 and 8 hours of formal classroom training on bargaining from their union. Consequently, it breaks our heart when we see that time wasted with a poorly constructed training program. There seem to be two types of negotiation training programs out there. One is designed by big picture folks as more of a survey course and the other by those who know from extensive table experience the nitty gritty skills that actually determine success or failure at the bargaining table. So, having come out of the former group, we want to share our thoughts about what a local or mid-term bargaining training program should include.
Topic 1 – When does a union have the right to negotiate over an agency proposed change, e.g., what constitutes a change, notice requirements, union-initiated bargaining, bypasses, etc.
Topic 2 – Exceptions to the right to negotiate and what to do about them, e.g., covered-by, de minimis, reaffirmations, within agency control, necessary functioning, etc.
Topic 3 – Invoking bargaining & Demanding information
Topic 5 – The five most important “good faith” bargaining legal precedents
Topic 6 – Three bargaining strategies, e.g., power, IBN and persuasion.
Topic 7 – Negotiability games and drafting appropriate arrangement proposals
Topic 8 – Impasse requirements from FMCS to FSIP
Topic 10 – Ratification, Agency head review, and Three critical dates
Topic 11 – Building membership through negotiations
Imagine attending a training program advertised to teach you how to build a house, but when you get there the presentation focuses on issues like community design, landscaping, and identifying the four major parts of a house, i.e., roof, walls, windows and doors. At the end, you would be as prepared to build a house as an 8-year-old Lego master. To actually build the house you need to hear about foundations, framing, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, drywalling, etc.
A trainer could cover the 11 topics we list above in four hours, but it would be a speed walk through a PowerPoint with a bit of room for questions and none for practice or discussion. It can be done well in eight hours and the more time devoted to it the more practice participants can get.