Tips for collective bargaining via video

Aug 29, 2021

Tips for Collective Bargaining via video? With collective bargaining being predominantly about relationship building, managing people and their perceptions, these are now exponentially more difficult as organisations are considering a shift to video conferencing. 

Luckily for myself, the three agreements I am currently negotiating have already commenced and two of them are in the closing stages – with money always being the key outstanding issue.

Not everyone is in the same position though, so what do you do if your organisation has collective bargaining at the moment – or is about to start – here are some tips that you might find useful:

T1. If you can hold off, then do it

My first recommendation for those due to commence bargaining in the next week or so, under lockdown Level 4 or 3, is to postpone it until you can meet face-to-face. This needs to be mutually agreed with the union official, but a commitment to back-date or back-pay might get it across the line if you need a lever.

But if you can’t and are already at the ‘pointy end’ of bargaining, engaging via video to keep the conversation going is definitely a viable option. Here are my recommendations for this:

2. Be clear with the talking points for the session

Reclarify your mandate prior to commencing video bargaining – the environment has changed, yet again, for many organisations. The agenda for bargaining is the claims – know what you can and cannot move on, and by how much.

3. Keep meetings and adjournments short and concise

Video is not a great medium for lengthy discussion and debate on holistic matters – keep responses pointed and well structured. Ensure your team is on topic, on task and on time.

4. Budget your time

Allow less time for video bargaining – three hours max – because conversing online is mentally taxing, especially for those whose jobs aren’t desk bound. Shorter meeting times require you to think ahead more than usual – don’t drop the ball.

5. Work with the union official to ensure all delegates can access the meeting

Ensure that delegates have the capacity to engage via video.  Some programmes allow people to connect via phone if video isn’t an option. It is in your interests to assist with getting delegates online to participate in the process, otherwise further delays may occur.

6. Include additional provisions in the Bargaining Process Agreement

My key inclusions are: all cameras must be on, participants are muted unless speaking, and participants must choose a location to ensure confidentiality. If this last requirement proves difficult, a headset can be used instead. 

That’s all for the tips for collective bargaining via video and despite the fragility of the working environment we are all navigating, it’s important to remain steadfast in collective bargaining pursuits – don’t compromise where it counts.  If you are going through this and need someone to talk to, I’m more than happy to discuss it –/anna-holmes-industrial-relations-specialist, or 027 289 3288

Stay strong, go well!


Anna Holmes is a collective bargaining and industrial relations specialist extraordinaire. For the past 15 years she’s worked with companies of all sizes both here in New Zealand and Australia.