What is a “bargaining protocol”?
At most universities, the first stage of each round of bargaining involves the faculty association and the university administration sitting down and agreeing on a set of rules for how bargaining will proceed.
Often, the bargaining protocol will include when and where the parties will meet, whether each side will table all of their proposals at once or over time, and whether individual articles will be “signed off” or remain open until agreement is reached on all articles.
While this phase of bargaining may sound routine and bureaucratic, it is often anything but. Frequently, the most contentious issue the parties must resolve is how, when, and to whom each party can share information about what is happening at the bargaining table.
Administrations generally want as little information shared beyond the table as possible. Faculty associations
on the other hand believe the bargaining team is a conduit for the demands of the membership, and union democracy requires that the members remain informed and in control of the bargaining process.
Of course, both sides recognize that little is gained by having every idea brought to the table shared with the outside world. Striking the appropriate balance between informing each team’s principals and protecting the bargaining process can set the tone for the entire round of bargaining. There is definitely more to this stage of bargaining than meets the eye.