HR Support on Collective Bargaining Agreements

Editor's Note: Union employers must bargain in good faith.

Melissa BoyceOverview: The labor management process may include collective bargaining. Collective bargaining is a good-faith effort by an employer and a union to engage in a give and take process to achieve a freely negotiated written contract - also known as a collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

A good faith effort typically includes:

  • Meeting and conferring at reasonable times in order to negotiate the agreement;
  • Furnishing requested information (i.e. the union will typically demand certain information from the employer in order to properly prepare for negotiations and the employer should provide all information relevant to a union in its role as a bargaining representative on an ongoing basis); and
  • Discussing any mandatory subjects of bargaining (wages, hours, benefits, workplace rules and discipline or other terms and conditions of employment).

CBAs can provide employees with greater rights then those minimally required by state or federal law. Unions frequently fight to secure rights that are not typically covered under state or federal law - such as seniority criteria, grievance/arbitration procedures, minimum leave of benefits and retirement type of benefits.

During the process of securing a CBA, employers must be careful not to engage in any unfair labor practices, such as refusing to sign the CBA or bargaining exclusively by mail or through the exchange of written proposals only. Generally, once a CBA is signed, an employer cannot make unilateral changes to its terms and conditions. If one party ignores its obligations under the CBA, the other party can request or compel arbitration of the dispute.

Trends: Some CBAs have provisions that address paid leave, provide for leave beyond the 12 weeks of FMLA, address the availability of light duty assignments, or discuss the accrual and use of, or bidding for, paid time off.

Employers with partially or fully unionized workforces should make sure that employees leaves under the FMLA, ADA, state law or employer policy comply with the provisions of any applicable CBA and that the most favorable protections are applied.

Author: Melissa Boyce, JD, Legal Editor

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