Next week I will again be speaking at the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association’s Collective Bargaining Seminar in Atlantic City, New Jersey.   Now that the two percent (2%) Interest Arbitration Salary Cap has expired and not been renewed, this will be the first time in eight (8) years that the seminar is being held where Labor and Management are again sitting at a bargaining table that is level.   Based on these facts, I wanted to present a small “primer” on “How to Prepare to Collectively Bargain” for Law Enforcement and Fire Labor Unions now that the salary cap has expired.

It is important to note that despite the fact that the two percent (2%) interest arbitration salary cap has been eliminated, your preparation as a union and approach to negotiations should not change. One must remember that the party that has the upper hand at the negotiations table is the party that controls the “leverage” of the negotiations. The party with the greater amount of leverage is not necessarily in the best position at the bargaining table. However, the party that has the ability to “control” their leverage by exerting it and utilizing it at the bargaining table at the right time and in the right way may very well be in the best position to obtain a favorable outcome in the negotiations short of proceeding to interest arbitration.

The way that leverage is obtained is through gathering all relevant and important information that is pertinent to negotiations, analyzing the same; and then manipulating the information to “construct” your leverage and then utilize it at the bargaining table.

It should always be the goal of the Union to avoid interest arbitration due to the uncertainty involved in the outcome as well the exorbitant costs associated with the same. However, it must be clearly communicated to the governmental entity at the bargaining table through and during the negotiations process that the Union is not afraid to go to interest arbitration because the Union:

  1. Is better Prepared;
  2. Is more skilled in the negotiations process and interest arbitration process;
  3. Has a greater command of the law and understands what they are and are not entitled to;
  4. Has gathered all of the necessary facts that support the proposals that have been communicated at the bargaining table;
  5. Has constructed clear and unambiguous proposals that support the economic and non-economic goals that the Union has set out to obtain; and
  6. The goals are realistic, not inflated, reasonable and obtainable at Interest Arbitration.

As stated in the beginning of this article, this is a nothing more than a mere “primer” for beginning the preparations process for collective bargaining.  Remember, if you are well prepared and have a solid strategy prior to beginning negotiations your chances of success will increase exponentially.