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Hymen 1997 describes collective bargaining as a hallow shell and argues that the only reason
why some employers offer better conditions than those negotiated by unions in collective
bargaining agreements is so that they remain ‘union free’. Examine this statement with
reference to collective bargaining in Zimbabwe.
The term collective bargaining was first used in 1891 by Beatrice Webb of the field of Industrial
relations in Britain. It refers to the sort of collective negotiations and agreements that had
existed since the rise of trade unions during the 18th century. It is stated that the right to bargain
collectively with an employer enhance the human dignity, liberty and autonomy to influence
workplace establishment and assist employees to voice their concerns.
Collective bargaining has been defined by a number of scholars as follows: Is a crucial form of social dialogue between the employer and employees as they negotiate the
terms of employment, working conditions as well as regulatory relations between employer
and employee (ILO Collective Bargaining Convention, 1981 (No.154).
Is a process of decision making between parties representing employer and employee interests
which implies the negotiation and continuous application of an agreed set of rules to govern
the substantive and procedural terms of the employment relations (Windmuller et al, 1987).
Collective bargaining can be simple defined as a way in which the workforce, through their
unions, negotiate contracts with their employees to agree on the terms of employment,
including pay, benefits, working hours, leave, job health and safety policies as well as life
Collective bargaining is also recognised as a standard which promotes social justice peace, fair
work place relations and decent work, sustainable development, social and political stability.
(ILO 1981).
There are number of reasons which make employers see no value in collective bargaining and
prefer that their employees should not be members of trade unions. The reasons will be outlined
discussed in detail below:
Employers enjoy bargaining advantage over employees.
Employers believe collective bargaining is a waste of time.
Affect wage dispersion.
It is associated with lower productivity.
Compress pay differences among workers.
It gives employees a voice.
Too much government intervention.
Greater bargaining power
The major reason for employers to see no value in collective bargaining is so that they enjoy
bargaining advantage over employees. According to Hijzen and Martins 2019 an individual
employee one has very little bargaining power, that is the less power if one is negotiating alone
than as a group. Therefore, for one to be heard joining a union is not un option. A union is a
powerful tool which compels employers to accept demand posed by employees for better
working conditions (Rao, 2010). Therefore, workers under a union can have a strong voice,
which will compel the employer to act because as an employer you can not turn a blind eye to
the collective voice. Therefore, employers will see it as an advantage to them if workers are
not union members as they can do as they please since there are no binding contracts.
Waste of time and resources
Some employers regard collective bargaining as a waster of time and resources (Malconson,
1997). For example, if you look into the salary negotiations for civil servants in Zimbabwe by
the National Joint Negotiation Council (NJNC). The workers unions may spend even spend a
week on negotiations. They may spend days without a resolution whilst expenses like hotel
accommodation and other related expenses are encountered. Moreso, these negotiators are
supposed to be at work and therefore production is compromised with these endless
Too much intervention by the government.
Collective bargaining should be carried out voluntarily, freely and in good faith. The parties
involved should be free to engage in negotiations and there must be no interference from
authorities in the decision to do so (1LO, 1949). However, in the Zimbabwean situation,
government intervention exacerbates the organisations to see no value in collective bargaining
and no need for trade unions. For example, in the negotiation for conditions of service for civil
servants. The government is in control such that trade unions become just a facilitative
mechanism in the negotiations (Sibanda, 1999). The government has a final say on the
conditions which force the unions to take or leave the offer.
Moreso, if the government fail to reach a consensus with the employees, they impose the ‘no
work- no pay principle’. Therefore, intimidating workers and breaching the rule that employees
have a freedom to bargain. Such incidences encourage or force employers to see no value in
collective bargaining, therefore strive to remain union free.
No respect for collective bargain rules by government
According to the ILO, 2010 ‘no threats should be used during the process of negotiation. Such
rules and regulations concerning collective bargaining in Zimbabwe are crushed to the ground.
For example, the leader for health and Doctors unions was once abducted and tortured so that
he is silenced towards addressing worker’s concerns. Such actions by the government lead to
employers seeing no value to trade union membership.
Affect wage dispersion and pay differences
Collective bargaining is said to affect wage dispersion in systems with no organisations setting
salary independency. Wage dispersion is the smallest average among workers who are covered
by sectorial bargaining. The lower dispersion in wages associated with sectorial bargaining
impact reflects lower returns education, seniority and potential experience for workers covered
by collective agreements (Denk, Rycx and Terraz :2019).
Moreover, collective bargaining led to higher wages but at the same time leading to high
unemployment levels as organisations may not afford pay levels. In addition to higher
unaffordable levels collective bargaining has a tendency of bunching and minimising wage
differentials among different grades in an organisation (Malconson: 1997). For example, in the
civil service in Zimbabwe, the salary gap between someone with a diploma and a degree is just
too thin. This led to low morale, and reduces performance of employees which in turn had an
adverse effect on productivity (Acemoglu and Pischke: 1999). Therefore, with such
happening’s employers see no value in employees being members of trade unions.
Too rigid and lead to frustrations.
Collective bargaining may fail to accommodate the individual needs for smaller organisations.
This is characterised by bunching salaries for both large or small organisations together by
using the concept of ‘lowest common denominator’. Some small organisations can not sustain
the salaries pegged through collective agreement. (Aidt and Tzannatos: 2008). This in turn
lead to low productivity, high labour turnover as the organisation may not have the capacity to
pay the agreed salary scales. (International organisation of employers:2009). Collective
bargaining may be too rigid and very slow to change in this dynamic ever-changing
environment. This is encompassed by failing to accommodate basic requirements of the today
business. This led to less importance and need to many employers.
Although there are a number of reasons which necessitates employers to view collective
bargain as of less value. The process of collective bargaining and membership of trade unions
is also valuable for the following reasons:i)
Manufacture consent
Protection of both parties
Standardise working conditions
Clear communication
Reduce discrimination
Sense of security
Provision of collective goods.
Reduce discrimination
There are situations where employers may discriminate basing on gender, sexual orientation,
religion, race any many more. According to Bender, Heywood and Kidd .2017 the duty of a
trade union through collective bargaining to ensure or coerce management in an organisation
to desist from such practices but to give employees fair treatment at all times. With the
existence of trade unions, labour related matters and decisions by management are closely
monitored, which has the positive effect of minimising discrimination in the workplace (Ouali:
2013). Therefore, in this case collective bargaining and trade union membership is very
important and it can not be avoided at all cost.
Sense of security
This is sole purpose for union membership. The belief by employees is that unions can secure
protection from unemployment and ill health. In some situations, trade unions may help
employees in getting the retirements benefits and even go to an extent of coercing employers
to invest in the welfare of employees (Industrial relations, 2007). Trade unions and collective
bargaining plays an important role in the protection of employees, so they are very valuable as
they protect both parties, that’s is employer and employee.
Settlement through consensus and dialogue.
Collective bargaining had the advantage of settling issues through negotiations and agreements.
IF collective bargaining is eliminated, confrontations and misunderstandings may emanate
between employers and employees (Shrestha. 2010). This therefore give a clear picture that
collective bargaining is a necessary evil in organisations which cannot be overlooked.
Clear communication and efficiency
Collective bargaining ensures a two-way communication between the two concerned parties.
By so doing the correct message is delivered to the right people on time and is clearly
understood. This helps in creating and maintaining positive long-term relationships and reduce
misunderstandings (Askenazy and Forth, 2016).
Moreso, work efficiency can be achieved in a peaceful atmosphere. The union goals will blend
well with organisation goals so that the main objective of the organisation is achieved. If
relations are good between employer and employees, management will always be open to
negotiations (Freeman, 1988). Therefore, this clearly elucidates the value placed by unions
and collective bargaining in an organisation.
Standardise working conditions
Collective bargaining and trade unions may promote uniform wages or salaries. These
eliminate wage competition factors, leading to management being weakened to resist the
existence of unions. This may be on the pretext that union wages may be lower than those
offered under single-employer bargaining (Blanchflower and Freeman, 1992). Therefore, the
existence of collective bargaining and trade unions is justified.
Protection of both employer and employee
The primary objective of collective bargaining is to protect the interests of both the employee
and the employer in the employment relationship (Laroche, 2016). Therefore, both parties
should embrace the value of trade unions and collective bargaining in the workplace.
Provision of collective goods.
This can encourage employers to accept collective bargaining because several types of
collective goods can be noted, depending on the structure of collective bargains (Windolf,
In conclusion, employers may view collective bargaining and trade unions as valueless but in
actual fact they are more protective to the employer than the employee. Therefore, both the
employer and employee are benefiting somehow through unions and collective bargaining.
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