top of page

Enhancing Collective Bargaining

Negotiators must approach collective bargaining with a broader brush, then a narrow solution orientated focus. Negotiators must consider three areas of focus (the three P's) to enhance collective bargaining:

  • People - ensuring a functional and sustainable working relationship;

  • Process - ensuring that there is a process that is certain and accommodates the needs of the parties; and

  • Problems in bargaining - a wider focus on understanding needs, risks and benefits before attempting to find solutions.

There is very little need to reinvent the legal framework, as our current law provides an adequate framework for negotiators to craft collective bargaining arrangements that are innovative, and will seek to address some of the challenges identified in my previous post. Old habits and practices of collective bargaining do not always reflect wisdom and must be reviewed. A strategic plan to enhance collective bargaining arrangements needs to be developed and applied in all three areas of people, process and problem. I suggest a broad integrated approach to collective bargaining.


This model is aimed at developing a cohesive collective bargaining strategy to consistently measure and improve bargaining arrangements. The cohesive collective bargaining strategy, aims to evolve the people; process; and problem (see above) focus areas in bargaining arrangements, through careful facilitated change. The ICB model is best implemented a minimum of one year in advance of formal negotiations starting, and should then become a constant feature of the collective bargaining arrangement. It integrates the processes of strategic planning; capacity building; relationship building; facilitated negotiations; content management and analytical process and policy enhancement, into a seamless change process model. We used this process in co-facilitating the negotiations at the Bargaining Council for the Civil Engineering Industry and South African Airways, to beneficial effect. I provide a broad overview of the ICB steps.

Step One: Selection of Independent facilitators

The integrated collective bargaining (ICB) model is managed by at least two experienced; independent and multi-skilled facilitators that are trusted by the parties. Facilitators must be equipped to handle the complexity of this process and as such must possess the necessary skill and experience to manage each of the layers of the ICB model.

Step Two: Initial Meeting, Diagnosis & Party Steering Committee

The facilitators can tailor make the ICB process based on the specific needs of the parties and the collective bargaining environment. It is important to consider the sequence and timing of each of the processes based on an initial diagnosis. This diagnosis is done with the assistance of the parties to determine the underlying issues, concerns, complexities, demands, pressures, timing etc. A first process map and facilitators terms of reference is created with the buy in of the parties and implemented. A party ICB steering committee is also appointed to manage the ICB process with the facilitators.

Step Three: Capacity Building

Parties are taken through a capacity building process that seeks to develop their negotiation skills using their past experiences in negotiations as a base. This training is done in joint and separate sessions, based on the needs and readiness of the parties. The facilitators are able to develop a coaching and mentoring plan for the negotiators. In addition, further issues of concern related to past negotiations can be identified by the facilitators and raised as matters that require strategic intervention at the next process step.

Step Four: ICB Relationship Building by Objectives

Parties are taken through a tailored ICBRBO process that seeks to build their working relationships, diagnose areas that have impacted on the collective bargaining arrangements and to jointly agree on action steps to enhance their collective bargaining arrangements. This is documented and provided to the ICB steering committee for implementation.

Step Five: Development of a Strategic Plan and Policy Framework

A detailed strategic plan is crafted with the parties to implement and monitor the action steps identified from the ICBRBO. The negotiation process map, administrative requirements and a code of collective bargaining is drafted or enhanced to suite the new bargaining arrangements. This may require amendments to existing policies and procedures on collective bargaining. The steering committee, with the facilitators, are tasked to monitor and ensure the implementation of this strategic plan.

Step Six: Planning for Negotiations

Parties are assisted in developing a negotiation strategy or plan to implement during the negotiations. Careful consideration is given to educate mandate givers and to provide balanced expert information to the parties, to enable the parties to define their negotiation positions and strategies.

Step Seven: Facilitated Negotiations

The negotiations are carefully facilitated by the facilitators, to ensure that the negotiation process is implemented in an efficient, fair and sustainable manner. The facilitators serve multiple roles to the parties during this stage which may include; facilitation, mediation, motivation, coaching, content management and diagnosis.

Step Eight: Post Negotiation Analysis

The parties and the facilitators analyse their experience in the implementation of the ICB process and extract areas for improvement. The strategic plan is amended and a process of implementation is agreed to as soon as practically possible, before the next round of negotiations.

Step Nine: Apply Consistently

This process must be consistently applied for each round of negotiations to ensure that the collective bargaining arrangements evolve and improve. It is my view that the cost and time that is allocated to this process is better suited to improving the quality of negotiations rather than managing the volatility of disputes between the parties.

Step Ten: Call Mediate Works

Contact MEDIATE WORKS (PTY) LTD on 0871505283 for a free consultation, to discuss how we can help you to evolve your bargaining arrangements.

Ebrahim Patelia

CEO - Mediate Works (Pty) Ltd

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page