Collective Bargaining Contd There

Collective Bargaining Contd There

Collective Bargaining, (cont�d)There are several 'levels' of collective bargaining in Britain, and the pattern of bargaining is complex. There is national bargaining, in which a union or federation of trade unions negotiates with an association of employers for all the members of the union. The most important national bargaining structure is in the engineering industry, where the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions, representing a large number of trade unions with two million members, negotiates with the Engineering and Allied Employers' National Federation. National bargaining generally covers only minimum wages , hours of work and holidays with pay. It lays down a broad framework and leaves particular issues to district or local bargaining, perhaps between a union district committee and a group of employers. These bodies can take into account local conditions, and can graft on to the national agreement additional provisions to cover special circumstances. Finally there is works bargaining between the management of a single financier and employee representatives, often a shop stewards' committee from several unions. Since anything affecting union-management relations or working conditions is a subject for collective bargaining, works negotiations have wide scope to determine the conditions of employment of groups of workers.

These types of bargaining do not exist in all industries. In practice the process is less formal, especially in local and works bargaining where a collective agreement, which in some other countries is a detailed legal document, may not even exist. Often bargaining results only in an informal understanding between the two sides. That a collective agreement is not enforceable by law illustrates the voluntary nature of British industrial relations. It is regarded as a gentleman's agreement; it depends for its successful operation on its acceptance by both sides. Many students of industrial relations hold that an unwritten understanding can have as much force as a written agreement.

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