The Role of Labor Relations at APC – Contract Bargaining Process

Contract Bargaining Process

In this third article of our 4-part series on the vital role of Labor Relations at APC, we focus on the intricate contract bargaining process. This segment highlights how APC determines negotiation priorities, the structure of representation in negotiations, and the dynamic strategies employed to navigate contract negotiations, concessions, and compromises. The insights shared underscore the balance of power, strategy, and member-focused priorities that guide APC’s approach to negotiations.

Determining Negotiation Priorities

The negotiation process at APC prioritizes member input and direct services. Historically, member surveys have been instrumental in identifying key issues. Additionally, input from Stewards, elected by members at each campus, highlights campus-specific concerns. Labor Relations and the Executive Board also contributes by identifying areas for procedural improvements, such as grievance procedures and disciplinary processes.

Once identified, these priorities are compiled into draft proposals by Labor Relations and presented to the Bargaining Team, comprised of the Executive Board and Stewards elected from the Statewide Council. The Bargaining Team evaluates each proposal, determining its status as a bargaining priority through consensus or, if necessary, a vote.

Ultimately, proposals approved by the Bargaining Team are formalized and presented to CSU as official negotiation items.

Number of Negotiation Points

The number of open articles varies and is not standardized.  In addition, each party may bring forth many proposals, but ultimately some of those proposals will be withdrawn with an eye to reaching an agreement.

Representation in Negotiations

CSU’s Bargaining Team typically includes a chief negotiator, other systemwide Labor Relations personnel, campus representatives usually comprising VPs or AVPs of human resources from multiple campuses.  The CSU’s Team may also include a note taker and someone who is able to provide cost analysis on proposals.

APC’s team consists of the five Executive Board members and an expanded group of Stewards, including non-voting observers. APC’s Team is designed to be efficient and ready to respond quickly to changing circumstances.

Navigating Contract Negotiations

Norris provided his insights into contract negotiations.  He said, “One myth that needs to be dispelled is that bargaining is a rational process: like a debating society.  Bargaining is about power.”   In the CSU, negotiations commence when either Party notifies the other of its desire to begin negotiations.

The next step is the exchange of “sunshine” proposals.  The purpose of “sunshining” is to allow the public some insight into the issues over which the Parties plan to bargain. Once the Parties have sunshined their proposals the bargaining process truly begins, and the meetings start.  All bargaining is a dynamic process, with the frequency of meetings determined by many factors including strategic considerations or on the pace at which progress is being made.

For instance, initial meetings may span two consecutive days to allow for time for the exchange proposals without delving into detailed discussions or counter proposals. Norris said, “APC’s Bargaining Team believes in efficiency, so we bring decision-makers to the table, allowing prompt responses to proposals. However, the University’s team may not have authority on some issues.  This requires time for them to seek approval from those with more authority which frequently affects the pace of negotiations.”

Meetings are scheduled based on how much progress made, the time needed for deliberations, both teams’ availability and the complexity of any counter proposals. Another factor which can affect the pace of negotiations is coordination between APC, CFA, CSUEU and Teamsters.

External factors, including budget considerations, further shape negotiation dynamics. For instance, discussions on salary adjustments may be deferred until the release of the May revised budget, impacting the negotiation timeline.

Despite the fluid nature of negotiations, tentative agreements can arise at any juncture, independent of contract expiration dates.

Navigating Concessions and Compromises

Determining concessions and compromises during negotiations is a dynamic process shaped by various factors. Proposals put forth by APC may elicit different responses from CSU, ranging from acceptance to outright rejection. While some proposals align with CSU’s interests and streamline operations, others may be deemed non-negotiable due to costs or conflicting priorities.

Both parties maintain areas where they refuse to compromise, leading to discussions that reveal mutually understood red lines. In such cases, contentious topics may be tacitly set aside to facilitate progress on other fronts which may help the Parties address the more difficult areas of bargaining.

However, there are many instances where APC takes a firm stance on certain issues.  For instance, in the TA which was rejected APC took a firm stance on evaluations being tied to step advancement. While CSU did not entirely concede the point the Union’s proposal strengthened its position for future negotiations.  This deferred resolution to a period when the issue was not subsumed into the larger discussion of the step structure.

Another key component to reaching a settlement is finding right balance between specific and flexible language in proposals is crucial. This strategy allows for adaptability, addressing potential future situations while still fostering progress. Often, these proposals are thoughtfully crafted in advance, ensuring both APC and CSU can move forward together, even when facing topics of disagreement or differing priorities.

Looking at the complexities of the contract bargaining process, it becomes clear just how vital the role of Labor Relations is. They’re working tirelessly to represent and fight for our members’ best interests. Looking ahead to the final installment of our series, we’ll explore what the future holds for Labor Relations at APC, emphasizing their ongoing efforts to champion the well-being and rights of our members.

If you’re ready to join APC and have your voice heard when it’s time to vote on the new contract, click here for more information.