Workplace NegotiationDealing with the expectations and demands of employees can create unique problems for business.The advent of workplace bargaining provides management and workers the opportunity to restructure relationships with particular regard to their local needs, without many of the rights and obligations that characterise awards of the industrial relations statutory tribunals.The challenge is to undertake change to the benefit of all the parties in a manner that builds and enhances trust and the financial security of the enterprise and its employees.

Case Study  Workplace Negotiations

Background

Super Transport was a regional carrying company involved in bulk deliveries in the local area. The company had been in operation for many years and had developed certain workplace practices which were now established as the norm.During a review of their company’s profit performance, management realised that the employees were being paid double time for the lunch break (crib break) on Saturday.
The Dispute
Management advised the drivers that in future the crib break would be paid at normal time. A two day strike resulted and the Australian Industrial Relations Commission was notified.A compulsory hearing was called, however no settlement was reached. The prospect of waiting two to three months for arbitration was not attractive to the parties, and they agreed to a co-mediation process with each side nominating one of the mediators.

The Facts

The employees had been paid double time for the crib break for many years.The Award was silent on the issue and only made reference to the crib break being payable.
The Process
The mediators confirmed that they would act as impartial facilitators and assist the parties to work together to a settlement. The mediators also developed a strategy for working together during the mediation, with each taking responsibility for different aspects of the process. The drivers were represented by the Union delegates and the company by senior management.Initially, each side’s position was fixed, with the drivers convinced that the status quo should remain, and the company equally firm that there was no obligation to pay double time as it was not in the award. During the discussions it was realised that the crib break was only payable if the employee was asked to work less than an eight-hour shift. If it was a full eight hours a normal unpaid lunch break would be taken.At this point the mediators were able to explore the various options which would involve both sides moving from their original positions. Considerable goodwill was generated during the mediation as the parties gained more confidence in a successful outcome. The use of co-mediators proved helpful in gaining initial agreement to mediate and also during the process in managing some of the relationship issues which threatened to undermine the outcome.
The Mediated Outcome
Super Transport would pay the drivers double time for crib breaks taken up until the mediated settlement. The employees agreed that they would take a half hour unpaid lunch break on Saturdays for shifts not less than eight hours.
Lessons to be learnt
Use of a third party to facilitate negotiations can assist difficult workplace negotiations.

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