Collective bargaining is the method by which employers and workers regulate relations between them. It normally takes place by way of formal negotiations where representatives of the employer meet periodically with representatives of the trade union to negotiate and agree changes to the terms and conditions of work.
Collective bargaining takes place to secure collective agreements typically relating to one or more of the following:
The method of collective bargaining is normally determined by a recognition agreement. This will specify the composition of any bargaining meetings, the arrangements for regulating such meetings and any other formalities which will apply to the process.
For terms of any collective agreement reached to be enforceable, the collective agreement must be explicitly incorporated into the employee’s Contract of Employment. For this reason, reference to collective agreements and their status is required to be provided within the Written Statement of Main Terms and Particulars of Employment.
Where unions are recognised by the statutory procedure, collective bargaining has a narrower definition and the union will have authority to conduct negotiations on pay, hours and holidays and training only.
An employer has certain duties during collective bargaining to disclose information. The representatives of the recognised union have the right to receive information without which they would be materially impeded in carrying on collective bargaining and it would in accordance with good industrial relations practice for the information to be disclosed.
Similarly, the trade union also has duties to its members. Where a trade union negotiates negligently, with the result that an agreement causes unjustifiable loss to the members or where it misrepresents an agreement, the members may be able to bring a claim against the union.