Sunday, September 2, 2007

Why Strike? First the City, Now CUPE

I found an article which provides insight on why City staff were so angered by the City of Vancouver's bargaining approach.

EXERPT: The Negotiator Magazine, Charles B. Craver, George Washington University.

"People who dislike the give-and-take of traditional bargaining encounters occasionally seek to short cut the process by beginning with firm and unyielding opening offers.

This was the approach taken by Lemuel Boulware, the former labor negotiator for the General Electric Company, who wished to make it clear to workers that they were getting their wage and benefit increases due to corporate generosity rather than union demands. Parties wishing to employ this device must possess a substantial amount of bargaining power, because, if they don’t, opponents will simply ignore their offers and do business with someone else.

This approach is an affront to opponents who expect to participate meaningfully in the bargaining process and feel they influenced the final terms agreed upon. It is basically a parent-child interaction with the “parent” offerors telling the “child” offerees what they must accept.

The visceral reaction to Boulwareism is to call the offerors’ bluff. This may cause a work stoppage or a failed interaction. Some persons deal with this tactic by ignoring the promise of the offerors not to alter their initial positions and by articulating realistic offers of their own. They hope to generate typical adult-to-adult discussions that will allow the initial offerors to begin to retreat from their seemingly resolute positions.

Although Boulwareism may work against less competent negotiators, it will rarely intimidate proficient bargainers. It is likely to turn them off and cause them to contemplate their nonsettlement options. Persons considering the use of best-offer-first tactics should realize the offensive impact such an approach has on opponents. It is more effective to begin the discussions with lower offers or higher demands and allow the other side to talk them up or down to where they initially thought the parties would conclude their interactions. This approach is much more likely to satisfy opponents who wish to feel they were respected and allowed to influence the final terms agreed upon."

Charles B. Craver is the Freda H. Alverson Professor at the George Washington University Law School. He is the author of Effective Legal Negotiation and Settlement (5th ed. 2005 LEXIS) and The Intelligent Negotiator (2002 Prima/Crown), and coauthor of Alternative Dispute Resolution: The Advocate’s Perspective (3rd ed. 2006 LEXIS).

Over the past thirty years, he has taught negotiating skills to over 75,000 lawyers throughout the Untied States and in Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Austria, England, Germany, and China. He can be reached at


Residents also sensed that the City of Vancouver's management had bargained in bad faith initially. Once the Richmond deal was ratified Vancouver's bargainers partially abandoned their paternalistic approach.

Unfortunately, CUPE is now prolonging the strike with a counter-offer that attempts to lock employees within a rigid seniority system and management within a restrictive set of Human Resources rules no organization would accept.

The question is, within this bizarre bargaining process the City of Vancouver has initiated, is this CUPE's "firm, final offer" or a starting point for discussion.

I assume the rigidity of CUPE's last counter-proposal is as offensive to management as management's condescending bargaining style has been to the City's "appreciated and professional" employees.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Speaking as a CUPE 391 member, I can say that our latest set of proposals is merely that...a set of proposals intended to be the starting point for discussion. We do not expect to get everything we ask for, but we do expect a dialog and concessions to be made on both sides, not only our own.

In terms of the Boulwarism implemented by the City, of course they had to know that their efforts would be received as offensive and would lead to a strike. How else could they save these millions of dollars earmarked for Olympic projects, smear campaigns, "polls", and their own pockets?