GUIDANCE ON DEVELOPING A LABOR RELATIONS STRATEGIC PLAN

PART 1.     WHAT IS A LABOR RELATIONS STRATEGIC PLAN AND WHY IS IT NECESSARY?

PART 2.      ASSESSING YOUR CURRENT LABOR RELATIONS STRATEGY: WHAT IS IT AND IS IT SUCCESSFUL?

A.     COMPLIANCE STRATEGY

B.      COLLABORATION STRATEGY

C.     COMBINATION OF COMPLIANCE AND COLLABORATION STRATEGY

D.     ASSESSING THE CURRENT STRATEGY

E.     DETERMINING WHETHER THE CURRENT STRATEGY IS SUCCESSFUL

F.     BRINGING ABOUT CHANGE

G.     DETERMINING THE GOALS OF LABOR AND MANAGEMENT

PART 3.     HOW DO LABOR AND MANAGEMENT DEVELOP A STRATEGY TO MEET THEIR GOALS?

A.     DETERMINING WHO SHOULD DEVELOP THE STRATEGY

B.     THE STRATEGY PROCESS

C.     INDIVIDUAL STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM

D.     JOINT STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM

PART 4.      APPROACHES TO IMPLEMENTING A SUCCESSFUL LABOR RELATIONS STRATEGIC PLAN

A.     IMPLEMENTING A COLLABORATION STRATEGY

B.     IMPLEMENTING A COMPLIANCE STRATEGY

C.     IMPLEMENTING A COMBINED COMPLIANCE AND COLLABORATION STRATEGY

D.     COMPLETION OF ACTION ITEMS

E.     DEVELOPING AN EVALUATION SYSTEM

CONCLUSION

APPENDIX A     AGENDA FOR INTERNAL STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM

APPENDIX B     AGENDA FOR JOINT STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM

  

PART 1.

WHAT IS A LABOR RELATIONS STRATEGIC PLAN AND WHY IS IT NECESSARY?

Much of labor relations in the Federal sector is reactive, with little or no planning involved. Both labor and management spend much time and effort reacting to each other, but rarely spend time trying to develop effective approaches to conducting labor relations to achieve the goals of the agency and the union. A labor relations strategic plan is an effort to do just that-to identify the goals in labor relations desired by labor or management, individually or jointly; to determine the strategy needed to reach those goals; and to develop the actions needed to carry out that strategy. Developing such a strategic plan allows the parties to move away from simply reacting to each other, towards an approach where they have a clear understanding of the best way to operate effectively to accomplish the mission of the agency and achieve their labor relations goals.

An effective strategy incorporates the best approach to dealing with both labor law and labor relations. Labor law requires a knowledge of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, relevant case law, and the parties' collective bargaining agreement. Labor relations deals with the different ways representatives of labor and management deal with each other.

A strategic plan can be useful not just for parties who are having problems in the conduct of labor relations, but also for parties with a successful relationship who wish to jointly plan further enhancements in their relationship. In addition, a labor relations strategic plan can be beneficial not only for parties who want to develop joint plans for their labor-management relationship, but also for parties who want to develop their own individual plans on how best to deal with the other party. Each party should have its own clearly defined set of goals for its labor relations program. Developing a labor relations strategic plan provides a party with a planned approach to having the kind of labor relations it believes will be most beneficial to its own institutional interests. Moreover, even the development of a joint strategic plan should be preceded by the development separately by both labor and management of an understanding of what options are available for strategies and what strategy best fits their needs.

For parties who have established partnership councils under Executive Order 12871, [n3]  such councils provide an excellent forum to establish a joint labor relations strategy. For those parties who do not have a partnership council in place, a labor relations strategic plan allows them to develop ways to conduct their relationship to effectively deal with each other so as to best meet their respective needs.

In determining whether there is a need for a labor relations strategic plan, labor and management should each ask themselves the following questions:

•           Are we satisfied with the present labor-management relationship at the agency?

•           If we are conducting traditional adversarial labor relations, are we being successful; in other words, are we winning often enough?

•           Are we spending more time dealing with significant workplace issues than we spend reacting to actions by the other side?

•           Are we satisfied with the results of our labor-management partnership council?

•           Is there a clear understanding of what the agency wants to achieve in its conduct of labor relations?

•           Is there a clear understanding of what the union wants to achieve in its conduct of labor relations?

•           If we are not satisfied with the current state of labor relations, do we have a plan in place to change the relationship?

If the answer to a majority of these questions is no, then it probably would be worthwhile for the parties to develop a labor relations strategic plan.

 

PART 2.

ASSESSING YOUR CURRENT LABOR RELATIONS STRATEGY - WHAT IS IT AND IS IT SUCCESSFUL?

Before labor and management can determine what the best strategy is for the conduct of their labor relations, they must first determine what their current approach to labor relations is. [n4]  There are two basic strategies in the federal sector for the conduct of labor relations: compliance and collaboration. [n5] 

As described more fully below, compliance relies heavily on the application of labor law, while collaboration relies to a great extent on labor relations. Labor and management may use one of these strategies or a combination of both. It is rare that one party to a relationship will use one strategy while the other party uses a different approach. Typically, each party mirrors the strategy used by the other side, although each party's effectiveness in carrying out the strategy may vary.

A.     COMPLIANCE STRATEGY

A compliance strategy relies on the enforcement of rights and obligations created by statute and by contract. This is the predominant strategy used in the federal sector, as well as in the private sector. The effectiveness of this strategy depends on the ability and skill to force the other party to do what the law or the parties' contract requires it to do.

The history of the federal labor relations program under the Federal Service Labor Management Relations Statute (Statute) has been one of much litigation and adversarial conduct. Despite the emphasis in Executive Order 12871 on collaboration and partnership, there remains a core reliance on the enforcement of rights and obligations as a predominant approach to the conduct of labor relations.

The enforcement of rights and obligations is the cornerstone of the Statute. The Statute provides several ways for labor and management to obtain compliance with the provisions of the Statute or the parties' contract. For example, the negotiability appeal process establishes an adversarial process for the resolution of disputes between parties as to which bargaining proposals are negotiable under the Statute. [n6]  This process permits management to decline to bargain in good faith over a proposal during collective bargaining merely by asserting that the proposal violates a reserved management right or is otherwise inconsistent with law, government-wide regulation, or certain agency regulations. [n7]  If a union invokes the negotiability appeal process to challenge management's assertion and the Authority determines that management's assertion was incorrect, management does not incur any penalty. The negotiability appeal process has, in essence, lead to a no fault negotiation system based on the protection of law and the enforcement of rights.

Another adversarial process for the enforcement of rights and obligations under the Statute is the unfair labor practice process. [n8]  Both parties have free access to this process to be used either for prosecution of legitimate violations of the law or for strategic, tactical, or personal reasons unrelated to a violation of the Statute. A party can use this no-cost process to attempt to gain an advantage at the bargaining table that it might not otherwise be able to obtain through the normal bargaining process.

A third adversarial process established by the Statute is the mandatory requirement for binding arbitration and administrative review of exceptions to arbitration awards. [n9]  This process also leads to reliance on enforcement to resolve disputes. [n10]  Although this process prevents access to the courts for review of most arbitration awards, [n11]  it does provide an administrative review process that is considerably more accessible and less expensive than court review.

Finally, the binding impasse resolution process established by the Statute provides another opportunity for litigation and adversarial conduct by the parties. [n12] 

A compliance strategy has several advantages:

•           This strategy is known to many parties since it has been in use for over 20 years. Although parties may not be thoroughly familiar with all aspects of each of the processes, they know what the processes are and generally how they operate.

•           There are clearly defined winners and losers. Compliance is beneficial to the party with greater staying power and with greater skill in the process. Having greater staying power and greater skill can equate to winning more frequently and thereby being more successful.

•           There is no need to trust the other party. The normal arms-length interaction which characterizes adversarial relationships does not rely on the parties' commitment or mutual trust. The parties don't have to get along to be adversarial. The parties simply use the various legal processes to adjudicate their rights, without relying on an effective relationship.

•           Compliance may be quicker than other approaches. If a party has made a decision which it believes is within its legal rights, it does not have to spend time dealing with the other party. It simply does what it thinks is within its rights and moves forward. [n13] 

There are also some disadvantages to a compliance strategy:

•           Litigation can be costly, both in terms of financial and other resources.

•           Adversarial relations can result in continual escalation of warfare between the parties. Winning may become more important than the underlying issue. What otherwise may be trivial issues become significant to the parties and turn into matters of principle that end up being litigated.

•           To be successful, a party must have a high degree of knowledge of the law and skill at advocating its position. Lack of a high degree of knowledge and skill is a serious disadvantage to a party using a compliance strategy.

•           A compliance approach does not improve the relationship between the parties. It can lead to serious damage to the ability of parties to communicate effectively concerning issues of mutual concern.

In addition to these advantages and disadvantages to a compliance strategy, parties may have experienced other advantages and disadvantages in their labor-management dealings. Parties must assess the advantages and disadvantages of using a compliance strategy before deciding whether to use this strategy in conducting their labor relations. Being skillful at enforcing rights is an essential approach to successfully using a compliance strategy to conduct labor-management relations in the federal sector. A key question which parties have to answer in assessing a relationship is the extent to which labor or management decides to rely on a compliance approach to achieve the results it desires.

B.     COLLABORATION STRATEGY

A second strategy used to conduct labor relations in the federal sector is collaboration. A collaboration strategy relies on the use of an interest-based approach to solving problems that otherwise would be resolved through the enforcement processes provided by the Statute. It relies on both parties acknowledging that each brings value to the table. It requires a high degree of trust and commitment.

In a collaboration strategy, the parties develop effective communication processes and work together to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. A true collaborative relationship relies on the expressed interests of the parties, not the requirements of the Statute. In a collaborative strategy, the union is involved early in the decision-making process, before management makes final decisions. Pre-decisional involvement is the normal approach used by the parties.

Collaboration does not involve co-management of the agency by the union. Co-management involves joint decision-making, which is inconsistent with the role of the union as representative of employees. If co-management resulted in making the union a part of management, the employees would essentially have two sets of management, instead of a representative. They would lose the union's ability to represent their interests when those interests clashed with the interests of management.

Collaboration should strengthen the role of the union as the representative of the employees, not interfere with its responsibility to employees. In a collaborative setting, the role of final decision-maker with respect to the exercise of management's rights is left to management. In those situations when agreement cannot be reached by the union and management, management makes the ultimate decision. Collaboration is not based solely on the parties "getting along," but is a business relationship based on each party getting something out of the relationship they could not have gotten using the traditional compliance approach.

The term "collaboration" instead of "partnership" is used to define this strategy because Executive Order 12871 does not define what a partnership is, nor does it explain what is expected of the parties in such a relationship. A partnership relationship under the Executive Order may use a collaborative approach to labor relations, some combination of both collaboration and compliance, or may simply be some form of compliance.

A collaboration strategy has several advantages:

•           A significant advantage is that labor and management use interest-based problem-solving as the basic method of resolving disputes. In an interest-based approach, the parties attack the problem and not each other.

•           A well-crafted collaborative solution improves the quality of the decision-making, as well as reduces subsequent problems arising from the actual implementation.

•           Collaboration also tends to increase the level of trust between the parties, which can lead to increased communication, which in turn results in better understanding of each side's concerns and better resolution of disputes.

There are also some disadvantages to a collaboration strategy:

•           It may have a negative effect on the respective constituencies of labor and management. Union members may perceive a collaborative union leadership as being "in bed" with management and only looking out for the leadership's personal interests and not the interests of the employees. Likewise, management may lose the support of lower-level management who may believe that upper management has "sold out" to the union.

•           Collaboration can also take longer to bring about change because using an interest-based approach sometimes takes longer than traditional bargaining.

•           Collaboration uses a new set of skills which are different from those required to be effective in a compliance environment. These new skills require changes in individuals' attitudes and approaches in how to deal with others.

As with a compliance strategy, individual relationships may encounter different advantages and different disadvantages to the use of a collaborative strategy. Individual experiences with this approach may have resulted in different outcomes. A key question which parties have to answer in assessing a relationship is the extent to which there is a commitment to this approach from both labor and management, or is collaboration simply doing compliance in an atmosphere where both sides speak to each other more politely or more often.

C.     COMBINATION OF A COMPLIANCE AND A COLLABORATION STRATEGY

A third strategy involves a combination of compliance and collaboration strategies. In combining these two strategies, there are as many variations as there are relationships between labor and management. Some relationships are heavily compliance oriented, with the Statute and the parties' contract being supreme governing documents in the relationship and where the parties rely on enforcement to achieve their goals. Some relationships have introduced collaboration at the national level and are waiting for it to reach the lower levels of the agency. In other relationships, parties have used the principles of the Executive Order to improve their relationship but still rely to a significant extent on compliance to settle their disputes.

The concept of labor and management "getting along better" is not a strategy. It may result from improved communication or a change in an organization's leadership, but this does not necessarily mean that there has been a changed approach to labor relations. For example, a new manager may come in with a new approach to his or her personal dealings with the union, or a new union president may come into office with an agenda more conciliatory towards management. These changes in key players may result in short-term changes in the parties' relationship based on their personalities, but may not necessarily result in a long-term shift in the labor relations strategy used by either side.

D.     ASSESSING THE CURRENT STRATEGY

In assessing their current labor relations strategy, the parties should ask themselves these questions:

•           Are disputes between labor and management more likely to be resolved using enforcement processes rather than interest-based processes?

•           Is a considerable amount of time spent in third-party proceedings?

•           Is pre-decisional involvement rarely used to provide union involvement in changes in working conditions?

•           Do union and management rarely work together to solve problems?

•           Are difficult issues dealt with through traditional bargaining?

•           Is interest-based bargaining rarely used to solve bargaining issues?

•           Is the level of grievance activity high relative to the number of employees in the bargaining unit?

•           Are most issues referred to the agency's legal staff for review and disposition?

•           Do union and management consider each other adversaries in resolving disputes?

•           Is the other side not to be trusted?

The answers to these questions indicate the basic approach to how labor relations is being conducted by labor or management. If labor or management answered "yes" to the majority of these questions, then they are probably using a compliance strategy predominantly. If they answered "no" to a majority of these questions, then they are probably using a collaboration strategy predominantly. As mentioned above, there are many variations on how labor relations can be conducted which may fall somewhere in between the two basic strategies of compliance and collaboration.

E.     DETERMINING WHETHER THE CURRENT STRATEGY IS SUCCESSFUL

Once labor and management understand which strategy their current approach most closely fits, then they must then decide whether that strategy is providing the results they want. In many situations, labor and/or management have never consciously figured out what they are trying to achieve in their respective labor relations programs. As discussed above, because labor and management spend much time and effort reacting to each other, rarely do they ever formulate a clear idea of what they would like to achieve in their relationship. It is unusual for either side to sit down with the respective leadership of their organizations to discuss and agree upon outcomes they would like to achieve in their labor relations program. Time spent individually within both labor and management assessing the success of the current labor relations approach used is a valuable tool to determine the effectiveness of the labor relations program.

Before Executive Order 12871 was issued, it was virtually unheard of for labor and management to discuss mutual goals. However, even in partnership relationships, many parties need to do more internal work within their respective organizations to identify their respective goals and how to achieve those goals. One of the weaknesses of some partnership relationships is that most of the time is spent shoring up the relationship between labor and management, but little time is spent developing each partner's internal support for a collaborative partnership relationship.

All too frequently labor and management believe they are helpless to shape the outcomes they desire, either because of the personalities of key officials on either side or because they perceive that the law is so one-sided that there is little they can do to force the other side to change the way it acts. There are many reasons for the frustration labor and management have experienced in the federal sector, which has lead some parties to believe that "nothing will ever change and that an individual party by itself is powerless to change it anyway."

Conducting labor relations with a clearly defined and understood strategy can provide the first step in changing the relationship between labor and management. Development of a strategy takes labor relations out of the realm of being largely dependent on factors out of the control of either party to a program with clearly defined goals and understood approaches to reaching those goals. A labor relations strategy does not change the way the law is written, but it may give greater opportunities for labor or management to be successful in enforcing its rights under the Statute. A strategy does not change the personalities of the players, but it can provide approaches and actions which may reduce the supremacy of such personalities in determining the outcomes of the relationship.

F.     BRINGING ABOUT CHANGE

A constant in the work environment of the federal government is change. Reinvention of government, budget shortfalls and reorganizations have resulted in significant changes in the working conditions of employees and, in some cases, in the mission of agencies. How this change is brought about has a major impact on the success of the organization and on the success of the labor-management relationship. How change is conceived and implemented has a significant effect on how successful the change is in accomplishing what it was intended to do. Change can present serious challenges to a labor-management relationship. When either labor or management seeks to change existing conditions of employment, this action frequently results in conflict.

How change is brought about by management is based on its philosophy of managing. Change can be dealt with in two basic ways: it can be forced or it can be fostered. [n14] 

Forcing change is the more frequently used method. In this method, change is simply ordered; management decides on the change and orders employees to comply. Employees do not participate in developing the substance of the change or its method of implementation. The decision-making process, which can be very quick, is usually centered in a few managers or a sole manager and is the sole province of management. Resistance to the change in the implementation phase may be great on the part of employees who don't like the change or don't understand it. It may take longer to implement the change because of employee resistance or labor organization resistance.

Fostering change involves employees, through their exclusive representative, in the development of the change and how it is implemented. The quality of the decision-making may be greater, because employees affected by the change assist through their exclusive representative in developing the change and its implementation. Because of the involvement of the exclusive representative, it may take longer to make the change. Total quality management, which involves employees in developing solutions to workplace problems, is consistent with a fostering approach. Similarly, the concept of pre-decisional involvement in collective bargaining is also consistent with a fostering approach. [n15]  Fostering does not work in a hierarchical management setting where decisions are made from the top down.

The philosophy of managing should be consistent with the strategy for conducting labor relations. If management sees value in having employees involved in workplace change through their exclusive representative, then a collaborative strategy is consistent with this philosophy. If management believes in forcing change, then compliance is the best strategy. A disconnect occurs when the strategy being used is not consistent with the philosophy of management.

A key question for management is to what extent does it want employees involved in decision-making in the workplace? If management is not firmly committed to fostering change, then it should not create an expectation that it is interested in collaboration. If management is interested in more employee involvement, then it should rethink a strategy that is based solely on compliance.

Management may choose to foster change with respect to certain issues, but to force change with respect to others. A combination of forcing and fostering may be part of an overall philosophy. The strategy on labor relations should match the philosophy being used. It may be difficult to change labor relations gears from one strategy to another if the scars from compliance battles have created such disruption to the relationship that trust is no longer possible. Any shifting of gears should be mindful of the impact it will have on the effectiveness of using a different approach in the future.

G.     DETERMINING THE GOALS OF LABOR AND MANAGEMENT

In the federal sector, management's primary goal is to accomplish the mission of the agency. Its role is to manage its physical, financial and human resources to accomplish this goal. A primary goal of a union is also to accomplish the mission of the agency. Its role is to represent the interests of the bargaining unit employees and help them obtain safe and effective working conditions.

Congress stated in section 7101 of the Statute that labor organizations in the federal sector are in the public interest. [n16]  Congress further stated that "the public interest demands the highest standards of employee performance and the continued development and implementation of modern and progressive work practices to facilitate and improve employee performance and the efficient accomplishment of the operations of the Government." [n17]  Labor organizations are in the public interest because they assist agencies to efficiently accomplish their mission. In enacting the Statute, Congress expressed its belief that labor organizations help make the government more effective and efficient.

Some managers might dispute the statement that a primary goal of a union is to accomplish the mission of the agency, irrespective of Congress' enactment of the Statute. They may be of the view that a union cares solely about the welfare of the employees and its own self-perpetuation. However, it is clear that unions in the federal sector have just as large a stake in the successful accomplishment of the mission of the agency as does management. To an unprecedented extent in the history of the federal government, some agencies are now being called upon to compete with other agencies and with the private sector for the work that they long had a monopoly on performing. Unless an agency's mission is accomplished effectively and efficiently, there may be no need for a union because there may no longer be jobs for employees or there may be a need for significantly fewer employees.

Quite often the difference between labor and management is not their ultimate goal, but how they believe that goal should be accomplished. This essential disagreement on how best to accomplish the mission leads to many of the disputes which typify the traditional labor-management relationship. Once labor and management acknowledge that accomplishing the agency's mission is their common overriding goal, and that they may have different approaches to reach this goal, both parties must develop a strategy to help them to reach this goal. They must develop this strategy while being mindful that the strategy must be consistent with their respective roles in the workplace.

 

PART 3.

HOW DO LABOR AND MANAGEMENT DEVELOP A STRATEGY TO MEET THEIR GOALS?

A.     DETERMINING WHO SHOULD DEVELOP THE STRATEGY

For a labor relations strategic plan to be effective, it must be developed by a cross-section of the people who will be affected by it. It should not be a paper exercise, nor should all constituents participate in its development. A labor relations strategic plan cannot be carried out effectively if it is the sole creation of the labor relations staff of an agency or of the president of a union. To be effective, it must be developed by people who are responsible for achievement of the goals of the agency or union. They must buy in to the strategy and understand its advantages and disadvantages. The most effective process for the development of a strategy is to use a team approach. [n18]  This approach is also the most effective at developing the buy-in needed to make the strategy work.

A management strategy development team to develop management's internal strategic plan for labor relations generally should consist of between 10 and 20 members. The head of the organization is an essential participant in the development of the strategy to be used by the organization. Key members of the labor relations staff which will carry out the strategy are also essential participants. The remaining membership should be individuals who are considered leaders in the organization.

Similarly, a union strategy development team to develop a union's internal strategic plan for labor relations generally should consist of between 10 and 20 members. The union president is an essential member of the team. The union executive committee is another essential body that must participate in strategy development. The remaining members should be made up of union officials in other leadership positions.

For those parties who wish to develop a joint strategic plan, a joint team is appropriate. A joint labor relations strategy development team generally should consist of a group of 20-30 people. As with the individual strategy development teams, the head of the management organization and the union president are essential participants in any joint process. The labor relations staff, key line managers and members of the union executive board should participate on the joint team. In short, this team should consist of the key individuals who were involved in the development of each side's internal strategy development.

B.     THE STRATEGY PROCESS

The strategy development process can be either a one-phase process or a two-phase process. The number of phases in the process depends on whether only an individual, institutional strategy for either labor or management is being developed, or whether a joint labor-management strategy is also being developed.

In my view, a joint labor-management strategy offers greater potential for significant long-term benefits to the parties' labor-management relationship. This Guidance Memorandum sets forth the two-phase process that is used when a joint labor-management strategy is being developed. However, some labor-management relationships will also benefit if either or both parties decide to develop an individual, internal strategy, without engaging in a joint strategy. Those parties that wish to develop an individual, internal strategy would use only the first phase of the process described below.

In the one-phase process, one party holds a meeting to develop its own strategy, irrespective of what the other side is doing. The outcome of this process is a plan which the party uses to implement its strategy and to influence the other side. The two-phase process involves both the initial phase of developing a party's internal strategy, as well as a second phase in which both parties jointly develop an approach to common concerns in their labor-management relationship. The second phase may deal with all of the issues considered by each party in the first phase, or may deal with only some of those issues. The aim of the second phase is to develop the best approach to labor relations that fits the needs of both parties. That approach will vary depending on the parties' needs. Possible approaches include a plan to develop a collaborative strategy, a better way for the parties to deal with each other on compliance issues, or a combination of the two.

To begin the planning process, the parties may need an outside facilitator to assist them in preparing their first strategic plan. A facilitator may be particularly helpful in joint planning meetings where the parties have a history of labor relations conflict. A facilitator who applies the concepts discussed in this Guidance can help the parties move towards a successful strategy. Some parties may need to use a facilitator only for limited purposes, and other parties may be able to develop their own strategy without the use of a facilitator at all.

Regardless of the role played by a facilitator, it is worthwhile for the parties to develop a strategic plan for conducting their labor relations. Even if the improvements brought about by a plan are only incremental, in many instances they can serve as the basis for the beginning of a successful labor relations program for both parties.

The length of the internal programs or joint programs is determined by the level of problems currently existing in a labor-management relationship. Normally, 1 to 11/2 days is sufficient for a meeting to develop an individual labor relations strategic plan for either labor or management. A joint plan normally takes 2 days. Additional time may be required for follow-up to complete actions after individual and/or joint plans are prepared.

C.     INDIVIDUAL STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM

Phase 1 is an individual strategy development program. [n19]  It is divided into six segments, as follows:

1.     Presentation and discussion of what a labor relations strategy is and the reasons for having one.

The purpose of this segment is to familiarize the participants with what a labor relations strategy is and its value to the organization. Specifically, the participants learn what compliance and collaboration strategies are and the advantages and disadvantages of each strategy. In addition, the parties discuss the relationship between a labor relations strategy and the philosophy of managing an organization. This segment provides an opportunity for the participants to appreciate the benefits of a clearly understood and implemented strategy in a labor relations program.

2.     Assessment of the current labor relations strategy being used.

In this segment, the participants assess what strategy or combination of strategies are currently being used to conduct labor relations. As part of this assessment, the participants explore the advantages and disadvantages of the current strategy.

3.     Analysis of the current state of the relationship between labor and management.

In this segment, the participants analyze the current state of labor relations, using a problem-analysis approach. In the first step of the analysis, the participants determine the nature of the problems-what are the current problems being experienced, what are the current symptoms and what is happening between the parties? In the second step, the participants diagnose the problems-what is causing the problems, why are these problems coming about and what is lacking in the relationship? In the third step, the participants discuss possible approaches to addressing the problems--what might be done to fix the problems, what are possible strategies or prescriptions and what are some theoretical cures?

4.     Assessment of whether the current strategy is helping the organization attain its goals.

In this segment, the participants determine what the goals of the agency or union are, both for labor relations and for accomplishing the agency's mission, and examine what impact the current strategy has on attaining these goals. Is the current strategy working or is it hindering the accomplishment of the mission? Is it creating the problems in the relationship? Is it leading to success in obtaining compliance with the contract or the statute?

5.     Deciding on the best strategy for the organization.

The purpose of this segment is to have the participants decide on the best strategy for the organization. Which strategy or combination of strategies is best capable of attaining the goals of the organization? This decision should take into account the philosophy of managing the organization, the current labor relations problems being experienced and the goals of the organization.

6.     Development of a labor relations strategic plan.

In this segment, the participants develop a labor relations strategic plan. The plan consists of a statement of the labor relations goals of the organization, the strategy to be used to reach these goals and the specific actions necessary to carry out the strategy. The specific actions should include not only those items that need to be done to effectively carry out the strategy, but also matters that deal with outstanding problems that stand in the way of achieving the organization's goals.

An important decision to be made as part of the plan is the extent to which the organization decides it is in its best interest to meet with the other side to discuss issues which would lead to a more collaborative relationship or assist in reducing unnecessary conflict. If the organization decides on a strategy which moves in the direction of a more collaborative relationship, then a joint meeting will be necessary to determine the interest and support for such a relationship from the other side. A strategic plan without this input would not be effective. However, if the other side is not interested in meeting, a plan on how to persuade the other side of the benefits of collaboration should be part of the overall strategic plan.

D.     JOINT STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM

Phase 2 is a jointly developed labor relations strategy program. [n20]  Many of the segments of this program are similar to the individual strategy development program previously described. The purpose of the program is to provide an opportunity for both sides to develop a plan on how to conduct labor relations more effectively. The joint program aims to provide a plan which will lead to an improved relationship and manner of conducting labor relations.

If the parties are in partnership, a joint plan aims to make the partnership more effective. If the parties are not in a partnership relationship, it provides a plan for improving the way labor relations is conducted. A joint plan can help move the parties towards a more collaborative approach to labor relations, with less reliance on compliance.

This program is divided into 6 segments as follows:

1.     Presentation and discussion of what a joint labor relations strategy is and the reasons for having one.

The purpose of this segment is to familiarize the participants with what a joint labor relations strategy is and its value to the parties. This segment includes an explanation of how a joint compliance and collaboration strategy works and its advantages and disadvantages to the parties. It reviews the need for an individual strategy and discusses the value of also having a joint strategy. In short, this segment provides an opportunity for the participants to gain an appreciation for the usefulness of a clearly understood and implemented joint strategy.

2.     Assessment of the current labor relations strategy being used by both parties.

The purpose of this segment is to assess the current strategy being used by each party. As a part of this assessment, the participants explore the advantages and disadvantages of each side's strategy. From the perspective of each side, how effective is the other side's strategy at reaching its goals?

3.     Analysis of the current state of the relationship between labor and management.

Using a problem-solving analysis approach, the participants analyze the current state of labor relations. The first step of the analysis is to determine the nature of the problems-what are the current problems being experienced; what are the symptoms; what is happening between the parties; why are these problems coming about; what is lacking in the relationship? After having identified the problems, the participants then discuss how to resolve them-what are possible strategies or prescriptions; what are some theoretical cures?

There must be clearly understood and agreed to ground rules as to how this discussion is conducted in order to ensure a full and frank discussion of the problems facing the relationship. A facilitator can be very helpful in ensuring that the discussion stays focused and profitable for the parties.

4.     Assessment as to whether the current strategy helps to attain the goals of both organizations.

The participants determine the mutual goals of both labor and management for labor relations and for accomplishing the mission. The purpose of this segment is to discuss the impact of the current strategy for labor relations on attaining the goals of the organization. Is the current strategy working or hindering the accomplishment of the mission? Is the current strategy creating problems in the relationship? Is it leading to success in obtaining compliance with the contract or the law?

5.     Deciding on the best strategy for labor and management.

The purpose of this segment is to decide on the best joint strategy for the conduct of labor relations. Which strategy or combination of strategies is best able to attain the mutual goals of labor and management? The parties have a full range of options with respect to how they conduct their relationship. In this segment, the participants determine how to improve the parties' conduct in those areas in which they use a compliance approach and those areas in which they use collaboration. The parties may also decide on a full collaborative relationship or one based on solely on compliance.

6.     Development of a joint labor relations strategic plan.

In this segment, the participants develop a joint labor relations strategic plan. The joint plan includes a statement of the labor relations goals of the organization, the strategy to be used to reach these goals and the specific actions necessary to carry out the strategy. The specific actions should deal with the things that need to be done to effectively carry out the strategy and the actions which would assist the parties in dealing with outstanding problems which could stand in the way of achieving the goals. This plan should also include an implementation strategy and mileposts for achieve of the actions.

 

 PART 4.

APPROACHES TO IMPLEMENTING A SUCCESSFUL

LABOR RELATIONS STRATEGIC PLAN

The development of any strategic plan is only as valuable as the processes put into place to ensure that it is carried out, periodically reviewed and evaluated. A great plan will likely not be successful if there is no follow-up to ensure its continued usefulness. The real test is not the goodwill which can be created by the process used to establish the plan, but whether the plan is actually used and the actions specified by it are accomplished.

There are three major aspects to implementing a successful strategic plan: (1) gaining "buy in" to the strategy that has been developed; (2) being successful in accomplishing the actions set forth in the plan; and (3) developing and using a system to evaluate the plan's success. These aspects vary depending on what strategies are used.

A.     IMPLEMENTING A COLLABORATION STRATEGY

Changing the current approach to how labor relations is conducted is, in many respects, a cultural change for an organization. For an agency or union that has not been collaborative in the past to become more collaborative requires a significant change in the way each side thinks about the other. Many of the attitudes and myths associated with labor relations die hard for some people.

For those attitudes and myths to change requires leadership and training. Leaders from both organizations must send a clear message that there is a new approach to labor relations, what that approach is and that they firmly support it. Joint training is needed to inform management and union constituencies as to the reasons and value of the change. Training should also be done internally within each organization so the issues related to such a change can be fully explored.

Additionally, training must be provided to develop the skills necessary for working in a collaborative environment. Processes must also be developed which further a collaborative environment, such as pre-decisional involvement and alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

As described above, the basic steps for implementation of a new collaborative strategy are:

1.         Firm and active commitment by the leadership of both the union and management for the change in strategy.

2.         Joint training of both union and management aimed at informing both sides as to the value and advantages of a collaborative approach.

3.         Separate training for both union and management on the effects of such a change.

4.         Skills training on subjects such as interest-based bargaining and improved communication.

5.         Development of a pre-decisional involvement process and the design of ADR systems.

6.         An effective communication plan which provides for regular communication between labor and management at all levels of the organization, especially between key leaders of both labor and management.

B.     IMPLEMENTING A COMPLIANCE STRATEGY

If an organization's strategy is to become more successful with a compliance approach, the organization also needs to make changes in its conduct of labor relations. The organization must acquire a thorough understanding of the current law and statutory processes and various approaches to settlement of disputes. The collective bargaining agreement must be current and clearly reflect needs of both management and the union. Both union and management must understand the contract and learn how to efficiently resolve disputes as to its meaning. In addition, an organization that spends time and effort litigating disputes should decide which issues it wants to litigate and what its probability is of winning or losing particular cases.

The steps to implement a successful compliance strategy are as follows:

1.         Provide advanced training on collective bargaining and other statutory subjects for labor relations professionals, including key labor relations specialists and key union stewards and officials.

2.         Provide general training for managers and union stewards on basic labor relations subjects, such as statutory rights and contract meaning and administration.

3.         Provide training for management and union officials on dispute resolution, communication, and litigation skills.

4.         Review collective bargaining agreement as to currency and effectiveness.

5.         Review success in third-party actions to determine causes of success or failure.

6.         Develop a process for analyzing litigation risk which provides an objective analysis of the value of a case.

7.         Assess effectiveness of current labor relations staff and determine skill needs of staff to effectively carry out strategy.

C.     IMPLEMENTING A COMBINED COMPLIANCE AND COLLABORATION STRATEGY

The steps to implement a successful combined compliance and collaboration strategy are a combination of the steps set forth above for each of the individual strategies. A key point to a successful combined strategy is a clear understanding by the parties as to which strategy will be used for which matters of concern. A lack of clarity on the approach that will be used with respect to certain matters can lead to misunderstandings and have a negative effect on the parties' overall labor-management relationship.

These implementation steps are examples of efforts that can lead to successful implementation of a strategic plan. In developing individual plans or joint plans, parties may use some or all of these steps or may come up with new steps that fit their needs. The important concept is that the parties recognize the need to develop an implementation plan as part of the strategic plan.

D.     COMPLETION OF ACTION ITEMS

The second aspect of successful implementation of a strategic plan is completion of the specific actions on the plan. Parties must develop a common understanding as to how they will make sure that they are fulfilling their responsibilities under their plan. This approach could be as simple as agreed upon meetings between the head of the union and the head of management, at periodic intervals, to assess the status of the actions against agreed upon mileposts. Periodic monitoring and accountability for the plan is an essential element of successful implementation.

E.     DEVELOPING AN EVALUATION SYSTEM

The third and equally important aspect of a successful implementation plan is an evaluation system. An evaluation plan should include a process for developing an objective system for defining what success means and evaluating the success of the strategic plan. The evaluation plan should assess the extent to which the specific actions completed lead to attaining the goals of the agency or union. Once the evaluation is completed, the parties can begin the planning process for the next year or for the next series of years.

The evaluation process can be as simple as a review of the plan by an evaluation committee that might consist of people who participated in drafting the plan as well as people who had a role in the plan's implementation. Depending on the parties' relationship, the evaluation process might include the hiring of an outside consultant to assess the effectiveness of the plan. In any event, it is key that the evaluation process be completed and its results be taken into account before any new planning efforts begin.

CONCLUSION

The aim of a labor relations strategy is to move the parties' labor-management relationship from being something that just happens to a planned, well thought-out approach to effective dealings in labor-management relations. Parties that follow the steps discussed above to develop a labor relation strategic plan improve their chances at engaging in more productive labor relations. Although a plan is not the answer to all problems that exist in some labor-management relationships, it does provide a foundation for increased communication and a constructive approach to the conduct of labor relations.

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APPENDIX A

INDIVIDUAL STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM

Agenda

Morning:

Welcome - Union President or Head of Agency as appropriate

Introduction to Developing a Labor Relations Strategy

What is a labor relations strategic plan?

What is a labor relations strategy and why is it helpful?

What is a compliance strategy?

What is a collaboration strategy?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of both?

Break

Assess the Current Labor Relations Strategy Being Used

Which strategy is in use?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of each strategy?

Does the current strategy assist in reaching the goals of the organization?

Analyze the Current State of the Relationship Between Labor and Management

Introduction to problem analysis approach.

What are the current problems?

What are the current symptoms?

What is causing the problems?

Why are these problems coming about?

Lunch

Afternoon:

Assess Current Strategy and Decide on Best Strategy for the Organization

Determine what the goals of the organization are in labor relations

How do these goals assist in accomplishing the mission?

Decide on the best strategy for the organization

Develop A Labor Relations Strategic Plan

Develop statement of goals of the organization

Develop strategy to reach these goals

What specific actions are necessary to carry out this strategy?

Develop plan to implement the strategic plan

Develop approach to evaluation of plan

Next steps

 

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APPENDIX B

JOINT STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM

Agenda

Day 1

Morning:

Welcome by Head of Agency and Union President

Introduction of Facilitator

Introduction of Participants - Each participant after 5 minutes of conversation introduces each other

Develop ground rules for conduct of the meeting

Break

Introduction to Developing a Joint Labor Relations Strategic Plan

What is a joint labor relations strategic plan?

What is a joint labor relations strategy?

Refresher on compliance and collaboration strategies.

What are advantages and disadvantages to joint strategic plan?

Assess the Current Labor Relations Strategy Being Used

(Divide participants into small groups of no more than 8 with equal number of management and union in each group)

Which strategy is being used by each party?

What are advantages and disadvantages to strategies being used?

Does current strategy work?

Break

Report out of small groups on current strategy

Introduction to Problem Analysis Approach

Lunch

Afternoon:

Analyze the Current State of the Relationship Between Labor and Management

(Divide participants into small groups of no more than 8 with equal numbers of management and union in each group)

Remind participants of ground rules

What are the current problems?

What are current symptoms?

Report out results of discussion

Break

Analyze Current State of Labor Relations - Continued

(Participants rejoin their small groups)

What is causing the problems?

Why are these problems coming about?

Report out results of discussion

Review of day

Day 2

Morning:

Plan for the day

Assess Current Strategy and Decide on Best Strategy for the Organization

(Participants work in small groups - different groupings than worked together the prior day)

Determine the joint goals of labor and management in labor relations

How do those goals assist in accomplishing the mission?

Decide on best strategy for the organization

Break

Report out results

Develop Labor Relations Strategic Plan

(Rejoin small groups)

Develop goals statement and description of strategy

Report out

Develop Actions to Carry Out Strategy and Solve Outstanding Problems - small groups

Review problems identified and provide actions to solve them

Develop actions to implement strategy

Lunch

Afternoon:

Action Plan Development - continued

Break

Report out actions and assess value of individual actions

Prioritize actions

Determine need for follow up for action items

Develop Strategic Plan Implementation Plan

Determine mileposts for completion of actions

Determine responsibilities for carrying out actions

Decide on next steps

Wrap up

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Footnote # 1

   See 5 C.F.R. § 2423.2 (1999).

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Footnote # 2

   Previous public guidance memoranda have been issued on "The Duty to Bargain Over Programs Establishing Employee Involvement and Statutory Obligations When Selecting Employees for Work Groups" (August 8, 1995), "Guidance on Investigating, Deciding and Resolving Information Disputes" (January 5, 1996), "Proper Descriptions of Bargaining Units and Identification of Parties to the Collective Bargaining Relationships in Certifications" (December 18, 1996), "The Duty of Fair Representation" (January 27, 1997), "The Impact of Collective Bargaining Agreements on the Duty to Bargain and the Exercise of Other Statutory Rights" (March 5, 1997), "Pre-Decisional Involvement: A Team-Based Approach Utilizing Interest-Based Problem Solving Principles" (July 15, 1997), "Guidance in Determining Whether Union Bargaining Proposals Are Within the Scope of Bargaining Under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute" (September 10, 1998), and "Guidance on Applying the Requirements of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute to Processing Equal Employment Opportunity Complaints and Bargaining over Equal Employment Opportunity Matters" (January 26, 1999) (Executive Summary) (Adobe Acrobat File of entire guidance) . Copies of all of these guidance memoranda can be found at the FLRA's Web- site, http://www.flra.gov./19.html

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Footnote # 3

   Executive Order 12871, as amended, "Labor-Management Partnerships."

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Footnote # 4

   Strategic Negotiations - A Theory of Change In Labor - Management Relations, Richard E. Walton, Joel Cutcher - Gershenfeld, and Robert McKersie, Harvard Business School Press (1994), provides an excellent discussion of labor relations strategies.

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Footnote # 5

   A third labor relations strategy, called an avoidance strategy, is prevalent in the private sector. This entails efforts, either lawful or unlawful, by management to prevent a union from forming or to seek the decertification of an existing union. Because of the nature of labor relations in the federal sector, as well as the statutory requirements, this is not a viable strategy for federal sector management. In the federal sector, there has not been a practice of management actively seeking to prevent unionization or the decertification of federal sector unions.

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Footnote # 6

   5 U.S.C. § 7117.