Accueil » 64-1 ( 2009) » Que font les employeurs comme préparation à la négociation collective ?

Que font les employeurs comme préparation à la négociation collective ?

Jean-François Tremblay et Jean-Guy Bergeron


L’étude vise à combler le manque de connaissance sur la préparation à la négociation collective et, plus particulièrement, celle des employeurs. Malgré qu’elle soit considérée comme une phase de première importance du processus de la négociation collective, les études de terrain sur le sujet sont quasi inexistantes. Le modèle de la préparation patronale à la négociation collective utilisé a été testé à partir d’un échantillon de 232 répondants provenant des organisations syndiquées du Québec, à l’exception des fonctions publiques provinciale et fédérale. Les résultats de l’analyse montrent que, globalement, la préparation des employeurs est jugée comme étant une activité importante, surtout la préparation politique, suivie des préparations synoptique et technique. Pour la première fois à notre connaissance, une étude présente ce que font concrètement les organisations en guise de préparation, tout en permettant une analyse théorique de la dynamique de cette phase du processus de la négociation collective.

Mots-clés : pratiques organisationnelles, processus de négociation, préparation politique, organisations québécoises


How Do Employers Prepare for Collective Bargaining?

Preparation for bargaining is considered by many to be the most important stage in the collective bargaining process. However, surprisingly, preparation for collective bargaining seems to have received little attention in the literature presenting experimental results. Faced with this situation, we sought to answer the following question: How do employers prepare for collective bargaining? Using a theoretical model which defines total preparation for collective bargaining as a construct with three dimensions (technical, political and synoptic dimensions), each containing four components, we sought to determine the occurrence of activities pertaining to this stage in the collective bargaining process as well as the relative importance of total preparation and its dimensions/components.

In a survey of those responsible for preparing employers for collective bargaining conducted in 2003, the latter were asked to fill out a self-administered questionnaire. The survey aimed at unionized organizations in Quebec, with the exception of the provincial and federal public services. Two-hundred-and-thirty-two (232) valid questionnaires were used for analysis. This random sample proved to be representative of the different sectors of economic activity in Quebec, except for an over-representation of manufacturing industries (32% versus 23.8%) and an under-representation of the wholesale and retail sector (6.5% versus 21.5%). Each of the dimensions/components was measured based on four sets of behavioural and attitudinal indicators aimed at assessing, on the one hand, the practices that were implemented the last time they prepared for collective bargaining and, on the other hand, the relative importance attached by the organization to each practice. The results are reported as a percentage of the relative importance of each of the variables examined.

A mean score of 62.1% (standard deviation (SD) = 13.5) corresponded to the rate at which respondents stated that they had prepared for the last round of collective bargaining. The aggregate index for technical preparation showed that the organizations’ average level of preparation was 50.5% (SD = 14.4). With a minimum of 21.1% and a maximum of 91.1%, the importance attached to technical preparation varied substantially, although no organization was found to have omitted to conduct this activity. Similarly, the results showed that no organization conducted all the technical preparation activities and considered them as “very important.” The activities associated with analysis of the internal environment (73.3%) were most highly valued, followed in order by those related to sectoral analysis (50.3%), external environment (43.7%) and lastly forecast analysis (34.3%). Our results showed that the importance attached to analysis of the internal environment stood out markedly from the other three components.

On the other hand, the results pertaining to political preparation showed that this preparation, which had a mean score of 69.6% (SD = 16.3) was the dimension with the highest mean score when the three types of preparation were compared. It appears that meeting with the agents (85.7%) and creation of a bargaining committee (85.3%) obtained the greatest results. Not far behind these two components, the result associated with consultation of managers at different levels (76.3%) also revealed the great importance attached by the organizations to this activity. As regards the results for analysis of union activities (31.1%), the activities pertaining to this component appeared to be relatively marginal in terms of actual achievement and relative importance.

Lastly, synoptic preparation appeared to be the second most “important” dimension of employer preparation for collective bargaining, with a mean score of relative importance of 66.2% (SD = 19.6). The analysis of results showed that the formulation of the list of demands (72.8%) was the most important component of the synoptic dimension. Almost at the same level, the elements related to the implementation of a bargaining strategy (65.3%), the validation of the mandate and the strategy (62.7%) as well as the evaluation of bargaining power (62.3%) also showed the great importance attached by the organizations to these components of synoptic preparation.

Based on the analysis of all the research results, it can be maintained that the activities involved in employer preparation based on the theoretical model used were present in the preparation carried out by almost all the organizations surveyed. Although the actual presence of these activities can be unequivocally identified, their relative importance should nevertheless be differentiated. Although our results are firmly in line with the literature, they nevertheless reveal some elements that should be considered. It is surprising to note that, of the three types of preparation, technical preparation appeared to be the least important for the organizations participating in the survey. With regard to these participants, the results associated with employer political preparation seem to lead to an analysis of the dynamic of the collective bargaining process which is in line with the evolving theoretical advances put forward by American authors associated with the strategic approach in industrial relations. The same is true of the results for synoptic preparation, in particular with regard to the proactivity of employers in the formulation of a list of demands. Moreover, while some authors highlight the advantages of formulating strategies in the framework of a collective bargaining process, our research results show that there was a real implementation of a bargaining strategy, in line with these authors’ recommendations. Despite the intrinsic limitations due to its innovative character and small sample size, our study opens the door for future research in order to better understand the dynamic involved in preparing the parties for collective bargaining.

Keywords: organizational practices, bargaining process, political preparation, organizations in Quebec


¿Qué hacen los empleadores para preparar la negociación colectiva?

El estudio se propone subsanar la escasez de conocimientos sobre la preparación de la negociación colectiva y, particularmente, la preparación de los empleadores. A pesar que esta sea considerada como una fase de primera importancia en el proceso de la negociación colectiva, los estudios de terreno sobre este sujeto son casi inexistentes. El modelo de la preparación patronal de la negociación colectiva aquí utilizado ha sido corroborado con una muestra de 232 participantes provenientes de organizaciones sindicales del Quebec, a excepción de la función pública provincial y federal. Los resultados del análisis muestran globalmente que la preparación de los empleadores es juzgada como una actividad importante, sobre todo la preparación política, seguido de las preparación sinóptica y técnica. Por la primera vez, según nuestro conocimiento, este estudio permite de constatar lo que las organizaciones hacen concretamente en términos de preparación y al mismo tiempo nos permiten un análisis teórico de la dinámica de esta fase del proceso de la negociación colectiva.

Palabras claves: practicas organizacionales, procesos de negociación, preparación política, organizaciones quebequenses