PREPARATIONS FOR NEGOTIATIONS
Selection of Negotiating Team:
The Association's first task when gearing up for negotiations is to assemble a negotiating team. This should be done six to nine months before expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement. When selecting members of the negotiating team, keep in mind the following:
Consistency. The Association should endeavor to have at least one or two people who have sat in on prior negotiation meetings. This will keep the public agency honest as to what had occurred in previously negotiated contracts.
Numbers. Attempt to select someone good with numbers and graphs. This will be the person who will likely prepare salary surveys and put together other data used in negotiations.
Schmoozer. If your association has someone that is well known or otherwise gets along well with city officials and local politicians, it would be favorable to have him on your negotiating team. This person may provide an invaluable service should negotiations reach a stalemate.
Lead Negotiator. Associations who traditionally use a professional negotiator such as their POA attorney, the selection is taken care of. If your association does not utilize a professional negotiator (which you should), someone such as the Association president, vice-president or other association board member with some negotiation skills and training should be used.
Your negotiating team should consist of somewhere between three and five people in total which helps foster a more informal environment for the negotiation process.
With your negotiating team in place it is now time to put them to work. The team members should be given specific tasks, fairly dividing up the work so as to not overwhelm any one individual. The initial information obtained should include the following:
Wish List. An informal survey of your membership should be taken to obtain topics they wish addressed in negotiations. After the topics are gathered, you may wish to go one step further and then have your membership prioritize the topics by secret ballot. The results of any prioritization should remain within strict confidence of the negotiation team to avoid allowing the agency learning what is and what is not important to you and your members.
Salary and Benefit Survey. Knowing the topics of interest to your members obtained in the survey above, the Association should conduct a survey of traditionally compared agencies to determine your rank in regard to the topics of interest to your members. If you do not have a list of traditionally used agencies for a survey, you can either develop one based on geography or population. Avoid attempting to reinvent the wheel. If there is in place a list of survey cities which has been used for many years you should continue with that list. You will likely spend most of your time at the negotiating table arguing the validity of the surveyed agencies if you attempt to create a new list. If there are problems with the traditionally used list, bring it up at the negotiating table and try to eliminate one or two of the agencies and replace them with agencies both sides can agree to.
Agency's Financial Condition. The Association should obtain at least the last two years budgets as well as any proposed budgets. Additionally, obtain at least the last three years of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). With these documents you will be able to ascertain if the agency is putting funds into areas which should more appropriately be diverted to increasing public safety benefits. Additionally, you will be able to determine if the agency is hiding funds from year to year, such as budgeting ten million dollars for the police department when only 9.5 million is used, thereby allowing the agency to use the half of million dollars toward any other project they desire.
Other Recently Negotiated Contracts. Obtain the most recently negotiated contracts from other bargaining units in the agency. This will be a strong indicator of the agency's position at the negotiation table as well as may provide you information on benefits and other increases other bargaining units have obtained which you have not.
Politicians Contributors. Obtain from the local elections monitor (city clerk, county clerk or secretary of state) political action reports from the agency's elected officials from the most recent election. This will let the Association know who are the biggest supporters of the elected officials and who will likely have their ear should the need arise to communicate your position to them. This information is public record and must be disclosed upon request.