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ANALYSIS: Labor Negotiators Say 2020 Didn’t Faze Them So Easily

April 23, 2021, 7:47 PM

Employers weathered the challenges of 2020 and bargained with unions about as successfully as they thought they would—and sometimes even better, based on results from a Bloomberg Law survey of 72 organizations that negotiated at least one union contract last year.

For the first time in the 35-year history of the Employer Bargaining Objectives survey, labor relations professionals were asked to take stock of collective bargaining sessions that their organizations had completed in the previous year, rather than make predictions about a contract up for renewal in the year ahead.

As it turns out, 2020 was a brutally apt year for such a switch in focus. The Covid-19 pandemic, an economic recession, and massive changes to the working world all injected volatility into the collective bargaining process. Employers could scarcely have prepared for such a triple impact, yet the results suggest that they kept their balance at the bargaining table in 2020

Only 12% of employers said that their overall collective bargaining experience in 2020 didn’t go as well as expected. Meanwhile, 45% said that theirs did go as expected, and the remaining 43% said that their overall results were better than expected.

When asked about the specific provisions that they had negotiated in their 2020 contracts, respondents were more even-keeled in their assessments.

For example, 63% said the wage adjustments they agreed to were at about the level they had expected to provide at the outset, while 18% felt their negotiations yielded wages that were lower than expected and 18% felt they were higher than expected.

The story was largely the same for benefits and job security provisions. According to the survey results, negotiations went as expected for the vast majority of respondents in each of these areas, with almost perfect splits of employers reporting better- and worse-than-expected results.

Bloomberg Law subscribers can find related content on our Labor Plus: Organizing and Bargaining Data resource.

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