Strategically negotiating Certified Agreements
How to best prepare for a Certified Agreement negotiation?
In local government, most Certified Agreements (Agreement) now have a renegotiation clause requiring the parties to commence negotiation of a replacement Agreement within six months of the nominal expiry date. Peak Services regularly receives phone calls from councils requesting advice or assistance to prepare for the negotiation process.
Here are a few tips to ensure your council is on its way to being strategically prepared:
Review your existing Agreement
It is important councils undertake a review of existing arrangements or restrictions within their Agreement to determine what provisions may need to be changed, removed, or introduced. This review should not only occur at the senior level or within human resources, but also with frontline managers.
Councils should ask:
- What is currently impeding flexibility or delivery of operations?
- What arrangements could support productivity gains?
- What will our workforce look like in three years, does the Agreement support this?
- Does the Agreement need to be amended in accordance with legislative changes?
- Are there any administrative changes or clarification of clauses required?
Analyse data you have on hand to identify risks and opportunities
Councils should undertake appropriate research and obtain workforce data to support decision making and development of a Log of Claims, for example:
- Wage benchmarking with neighboring councils and councils of similar category;
- Comparison of wages and allowances with the Award;
- Utilisation rates and cost of benefits under the existing Agreement, for example allowances and special leave entitlements;
- Workforce metrics – age, sex, turnover, average retirement age, etc.
This data will identify the areas of risk for Council (likely claims from unions) and where Council may need to invest. It will also allow Council to make informed decision on what benefits and initiatives are likely to be important to employees.
The data will further be critical during negotiations, in responding to union claims, to argue Council claims, or to support the Council position, should the negotiations need to be referred to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission for assistance.
Review current and future budget prior to negotiations starting
It is imperative Council considers the current and future budget in determining what Agreement outcomes are financially sustainable and the cost implications on Council and the community. A financial lead should be identified to assist the negotiation team in forecasting and costing of the claims and providing specialist advice to ensure decisions are informed and achievable.
Develop a balanced ‘Log of Claims’
Council should always have a log of claims developed and ready to be delivered at the initial negotiation meeting. This document does not have to be detailed, nor does it need to include a wage increase offer. Peak Services recommends the log of claims includes:
- High-level statement on the key outcomes Council wishes to achieve in negotiation of a new Agreement, for example ‘A timely and responsible Certified Agreement that balances recognition of our hard-working employees with a financial sustainable outcome to the community’;
- Wage increase offer or, where Council does not wish to provide this upfront, a statement relating to wages, for example ‘A financially responsible wage increase which will be greater than or equal to CPI’;
- Benefits and conditions Council is willing to provide to employees, this may include enhancements to entitlements or maintenance of current conditions;
- Productivity initiatives Council is seeking, which may include changes or new provisions, project commitments, increased flexibility, etc.
When determining what to include in Council’s log of claims with respect to wage increases and benefits, Council should balance the importance of not disengaging employees and rewarding their commitment and hard work, with the need to have some room to move during the negotiation process.
It is recommended that the log of claims be presented by a Senior Leader of Council and that it is communicated to the broader workforce following the negotiation meeting. .
Assemble a representative negotiation team
Council should also consider who they will include in their negotiation team. It is recommended Council includes:
- A lead negotiator who is confident with directing the process and, where possible, has experience in Agreement negotiations.
- Representatives from different areas of the business as subject matter experts;
- An industrial relations or human resources specialist who can provide advice to the team;
- A secretary who can capture outcomes, minutes and actions.
It is also helpful to have a payroll representative who can advise the negotiation team of any implications of implementing certain initiatives, benefits, or allowances from an operational point of view.
Peak Services has assisted many councils in strategy development, negotiation and certification of agreements
We can do this by:
- Reviewing existing Agreements and providing advice on recommended changes;
- Facilitating strategic negotiation planning with Council leaders;
- Developing of log of claims and clauses;
- Providing industry information and data, including outcomes in other councils;
- Participating as a member of Council’s negotiation team; and
- Providing specialist advice to assist throughout Council negotiations including industrial advice and guidance, drafting of clauses, assistance in responding to union claims, communication advice, and more.
For assistance with Certified Agreements, please contact Natalie Todd, Senior Advisor, Peak Legal and Workforce Services on 0411 740 557 or reach out to your IR Helpdesk for assistance via 1300 542 700.