The New Year is upon us which means many public sector collective bargaining agreements have expired.  Perhaps your City or County was fortunate enough to start negotiations prior to the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement, and maybe even reached a settlement.  If not, here are a few tips to help you begin to prepare for negotiations.

First, consider your budget and then look back at any problems that arose under the collective bargaining agreement.  These could be grievances that were filed or any type of problem that may have developed.  Evaluate these issues and how they were resolved to determine whether or not you need to propose changes to the collective bargaining agreement.

Second, create a comparable group.  You may not need the comparable data at the first negotiation session, but this will definitely be helpful down the road, especially if you get to the point of mediation or interest arbitration.

The following should be considered when compiling a comparable group:

1) Start by checking if a comparable group was ever used in prior negotiations or interest arbitrations.  If so, determine if there is any reason to change the previously established comparable group.

2) If there is no comparable group, start by looking at cities or counties of like size and tax capacity.  When I create a comparable group, I make sure to keep true to the region of the state, for example, I compare northern Minnesota cities to other northern Minnesota cities.  I don’t compare small out-state cities to small metro area cities.

3) It is also important to compare like job positions, supervisors should be compared to supervisors etc…

4) Always compare cities to cities and counties to counties, apples to apples.  Do not mix cities and counties as they have substantially different tax bases.

Finally, look at your past practices.  Are there any past practices the Employer is interested in ending, if so, this is the time to put the Union on notice about it.

Keeping these suggestions in mind will help you successfully prepare for negotiations.  For more helpful information look back at my previous blogs about documenting collective bargaining negotiations and handling different negotiation styles at the bargaining table.