Labor relations negotiators are business professionals who act as a link
between management and employees. Negotiators may work for either a labor
union or the management of a company or organization.
Depending on where they work, labor relations negotiators may deal with
complaints, handle problem labor situations and negotiate contracts.
In smaller companies, a human resources manager may handle these duties.
In large companies, several labor relations negotiators might be needed.
In business and industry, a contract is an agreement between management
and employees outlining what is expected of employees and what employees can
expect from management. It deals with issues like salaries, holidays, conduct
and sick pay.
When it comes time to get together and discuss what's in a contract, representatives
from both the union and the management meet for a process called collective
"In labor negotiations, you basically go through the whole contract line
by line, and you deal with salaries and benefits and anything that's in the
contract. You either update it or omit it," says Sandi Jackson. She is a labor
relations negotiator for a teachers' union.
Experts say a lot of what people think about labor negotiation is untrue.
They say people have a misconception that labor negotiators are at each other's
throats, arguing all night long. The real situation is a lot different.
"Some sessions can be downright friendly as long as everyone is patient
and keeps their head. Most of the bargaining I've been involved in has ended
on time and with everyone still on speaking terms," says labor relations negotiator
While many professions call for people who are good with other people,
this is especially true of labor relations negotiators. Communication skills
are their most important tool in a job that involves dealing with people in
difficult situations day in and day out.
If you're cut out for this type of work, being a labor relations negotiator
can be a very rewarding job. "It's a great job that offers you lots of wonderful
experiences," says Jackson.
Labor relations negotiation is basically a 9-to-5 office job, although
negotiators may be called on to travel for meetings and may work overtime
in difficult negotiations.
Labor relations negotiators say their most important skill is problem solving.
Their most important job is to act as a link between management and employees.
They make sure everyone has the right information.
"I have to make sure people get the information they need in terms of what's
going on with things like salary increases and contracting out," says Jackson.