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Processes Of Collective Bargaining

Much controversy exists over what activities collective bargaining embraces. Depending upon whether one adopts a broad or a narrow point of view, the processes of bargaining variously include:

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  1. Negotiation of contracts: negotiation of contracts is the most significant factor. It provides the general structure of wages, hours, and working conditions within which the parties will operate for the ensuing year (or sometimes longer).
  2. Settlement of grievances: By necessity, collective bargaining must provide for adjustment of grievances. In the negotiation of the contract, in the handling of grievances, or in the consideration of problems not covered by these two processes, the parties may reach an impasse.
  3. Strikes and lock-outs: The backbone of collective bargaining has always been economic coercion, which includes union recourses like strikes, boycotts, and picketing, as well as employer recourses like shutdowns, lockouts and farming out work. The threat of warfare, backed by both the ability and willingness to fight, is the primary bargaining weapon of each side.

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Purpose Of Collective Bargaining

Importance to employees

  1. Collective bargaining develops a sense of self-respect and responsibility among the employees.
  2. It increases the strength of the workforce, thereby, increasing their bargaining capacity as a group.
  3. Collective bargaining increases the morale and productivity of employees.
  4. It restricts management’s freedom for arbitrary action against the employees.
  5. Effective collective bargaining machinery strengthens the trade unions movement.
  6. The workers feel motivated as they can approach the management on various matters and bargain for higher benefits.
  7. It helps in securing a prompt and fair settlement of grievances.
  8. It provides a flexible means for the adjustment of wages and employment conditions to economic and technological changes in the industry, as a result of which the chances for conflicts are reduced.

Importance to employers

  1. It becomes easier for the management to resolve issues at the bargaining level rather than taking up complaints of individual workers.
  2. Collective bargaining tends to promote a sense of job security among employees and thereby tends to reduce the cost of labor turnover to management.
  3. Collective bargaining opens up the channel of communication between the workers and the management and increases worker participation in decision making.
  4. Collective bargaining plays a vital role in settling and preventing industrial disputes.

Importance to society

  1. Collective bargaining leads to industrial peace in the country
  2. It results in establishment of a harmonious industrial climate, which supports and helps the pace of a nation’s efforts towards economic and social development since the obstacles to such a development can be reduced considerably.
  3. The discrimination and exploitation of workers is constantly being checked.
  4. It provides a method or the regulation of the conditions of employment of those who are directly concerned about them

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Constraints To Effective Collective Bargaining

The following are factors or variables that constitute hindrance to the effectiveness of collective bargaining:

  1. Lack of recognition of the union by the employer.
  2. Poor and unbalanced power relationship between the parties.
  3. Intra-union conflict that could lead to unstable relationship among rank and file members of union.
  4. Domination of the union by active minority due to display of apathy by majority of members.
  5.  Employers sometimes do not encourage or support joint authorship of rule(s) with the union.
  6. If the national economy experiences political instability and economic downturn, the institution of collective bargaining will in turn be adversely affected. This is because the bargaining power of the trade unions will be eroded i.e., there will be no balance of power between the parties.
  7. In many, instances employers have been reluctant or are known to have refused to implement agreement mutually reached by parties e.g. Federal Government vs. ASUU cases.
  8. In the process of bargaining, suspicion, prejudices and biases have marred cordial relationship that would have resulted to parties reaching amicable agreement.
  9. The proscription or banning of trade unions and unionism for unjust or unfair reason(s) by the state creates unfavourable climate for the institution of collective bargaining amongst others.


Collective bargaining is an important mechanism in promoting industrial democracy, the safeguard of which should be encouraged by an enabling framework provided by government through legislation. The private sector should be encouraged to participate in free voluntary collective bargaining with little or no government interference. In the public sector, modalities should be put in place to ensure that public employees across all sectors are free to participate in collective bargaining as this advance productivity of labour, which in turn aids socio-economic development. There is also need for a periodic training of workers and their representatives on the principles of collective bargaining.

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This article was first published on 19th December 2019


Foluke Akinmoladun is the Managing Solicitor of Trizon Law Chambers. She has been a legal practitioner for 13 years and has experience in a wide range of commercial matters. She is a certified mediator, a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators(UK), holds an Advanced Diploma in Accounting from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (UK) and is also a tax consultant. She is a dispute resolution expert, handling commercial disputes from negotiations all the way to litigation (if need be).

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