The author is a Workplace Relations Officer within a Victorian Peak Body Employer Association, teaches employee relations at Monash University and was on the panel of accredited mediators for the Australian Industrial Relations pilot mediation program. The author is currently undertaking the Master of Conflict Resolution program at Latrobe University Law School, Melbourne. The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of the organization at which he works or of any other entity.
This article explores the theory behind interest-based negotiation and its application to the labor-management relationship. It examines the critical factors for the successful implementation of interest-based negotiation, and then looks at whether these factors are present at Kaiser Permanente.
Understanding interest-based negotiation in the labor relations context is important because, over the past century, traditional collective bargaining has led to adversarial relationships1 and an inflexible unionized workforce that trades inflexibilities2 for concessions from management.3 With international competition driving the demand for improved products and services, organizations need flexibility in order to compete.4 They can achieve flexibility in two different ways: either by marginalizing unions or making them a business partner using interest-based negotiation.5 This is a cooperative technique that, when combined with other employee-participation strategies, can help to build trust and foster the kind of mutually productive relationship that is needed to be successful in today’s competitive environment.6