Humanising the Process of Hostile EBA Negotiations


A client in the printing industry was faced with threatened strike action from three separate labour unions. ENS helped conduct three separate negotiations, encouraging all parties to focus on relationship aspects and humanise the process. Industrial action was avoided, and the level of hostility reduced after negotiations were successfully concluded.

Hostile relationships pose threat of massive strike action

The client needed to negotiate Enterprise Bargaining Agreements (EBA) with three different labour unions to avert threatened strike action. They were greatly challenged by a very destabilised workforce rife with fear of retrenchments. This was compounded by a history of hostile relationships between management and labour unions. With lead negotiators from the unions averse to negotiation assistance, the senior management of our client was highly sceptical of achieving any favourable outcome.

Humanising the negotiation process

Understanding the volatility of the situation, ENS focused on the relationship aspects and endeavoured to humanise the process. We conducted a joint negotiation skills training for both the management and union representatives for three days. We also facilitated systematic preparation for each party involved. These steps were critical in developing greater awareness of the negotiation process and shifted exclusive focus from the content.

We adapted our negotiation style to the level of the parties involved. Prior to formal negotiations, we encouraged informal influencing and relationship work. Our client followed our advice to use hard-line tactics in a controlled way for better outcomes.

Averted strike actions through tailored negotiation styles

Within six weeks of our intervention, two unions signed agreements with the management. The third union followed suit after observing the process and outcomes of the first two agreements. With negotiations promptly concluded, industrial action was avoided, and the level of hostility significantly reduced. Our client enlisted our services again to start the negotiations for labour agreements for the next year.

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ENS Team

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