Brookdale’s three professional bargaining units tried things a little differently this year, rolling out a new, more collaborative approach to contract negotiations.
The results, according to representatives from all three teams, were remarkable.
“From my perspective, it was a very positive experience,” said Helen Vota, senior accounts payable specialist with the Scroll & Pen Bookstore and negotiating team member for the Brookdale Community College Professional Staff Association (BCCPSA).
“We found it to be a collegial, collaborative effort and a great way for all to gain a better understanding of each other’s concerns.”
The new approach, called Interest Based Bargaining (IBB), attempts to limit conflict and adversarial negotiations by focusing on mutual concerns and needs that can be addressed collaboratively.
Under traditional bargaining practices, two sides come to the table with their own proposals, ready to defend their requests and refute the other party’s.
“Conflict and an adversarial relationship may result,” said Vota, who participated in two rounds of such negotiations with the college in years past. “Often the parties may be required to call in a third party – a mediator or fact-finder – to facilitate the process.”
IBB, on the other hand, focuses on creating teams of representatives from management and the bargaining unit, involving all members in the process.
Negotiating sessions center on overarching problems, concerns or subject areas – called issues – that need to be addressed. Subcommittees are sometimes formed, and both sides work collaboratively to find solutions that benefit both sides and the college community as a whole.
The BCCPSA, the Brookdale Community College Administrative Association (BCCAA) and the negotiating team for the college began the process early last year by meeting and setting ground rules to govern their upcoming contract talks.
In the summer and early winter representatives from all sides took part in IBB training sessions, where facilitators used multimedia presentations, group discussion and simulations to explain the IBB philosophy and allow them to practice the new procedures.
By the start of the new fiscal year, all negotiations had been completed and Brookdale’s bargaining units reported one of the most amiable, successful rounds of talks in recent memory.
“During the IBB process, relationships were formed,” Vota said. “Both management and the association were able to present the problems and issues we are currently facing. When one side would propose a resolution to an issue, there was never no for an answer without ideas for a workable solution.”
“As some who has experienced both kinds of negotiation styles, I prefer IBB,” added Kathy Vasile, a learning assistant in the Brookdale Writing Center and a member of the BCCPSA team. “I feel hopeful about the creative solutions and cooperation it fostered.”
PICTURED: Members of Brookdale’s three bargaining units prepare for the IBB process in the summer of 2013.