|dc.description.abstract||The ratification procedure is the last phase in the negotiation of a collective agreement, in which the union membership is given the opportunity to vote to accept or reject the proposed agreement. Traditionally, union leaders held meetings to inform the membership of the bargaining team’s expert assessment of the proposal. However, with the development of electronic communication, union members have begun to question the necessity of meeting attendance. This poses a problem for the union leaders, as without the ratification meeting, the leadership may lose their ability to impart their knowledge and opinions on their members, and their ability to influence the vote. The purpose of this research is to assess how a change from traditional meetings-based ratification to electronic ratification impacts the negotiation process, and most particularly what Walton and McKersie (1965) refer to as the “Intra-organisational Bargaining” sub-process.
In order to explore this, sixteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with union negotiators. The interviewees covered both the public and private sectors, and a wide variety of industries including manufacturing, finance, health, public safety, transport, education, hospitality, and entertainment. The interviewees were asked to describe their current bargaining process of claims development, selection of the bargaining team, communications during negotiations, and finally, ratification. They were then asked to talk back through the process as if the ratification had changed (from meetings-based to electronic, or visa-versa). The data gathered from these interviews were analysed using the theory-building Grounded Theory approach of Strauss and Corbin (1990).
The creation and growth of Information Communications Technology (ICT) and particularly the Internet have enabled the development of processes that have the ability to replace traditional communication processes. One major implication of this is the ability for union members to cast ratification votes online. This concept presents the union negotiators with a problem, as the traditional meetings were used to persuade the membership to vote in the way the bargaining team believed was in their best interests. In order to mitigate this problem, changes to the claims development process will require membership consultative unions and their opposite, representative democracy unions, to converge. Bargaining teams who have traditionally been reluctant to communicate with their membership have indicated a need to increase member engagement, and those with larger memberships have discussed an increase in the role of the delegate structure to disseminate information and also to provide a channel for feedback. As for the ratification phase, some interviewees discussed different voting procedures that include tests of understanding to ensure that voters have received the message from the bargaining team.
The findings indicated that in order for union leaders to mitigate the potential challenges presented by electronic ratification, there was a need for significant changes to the claims development process, communication during negotiations, and the ratification procedure. The purpose of these changes is to ensure that the bargaining team has the opportunity to present the members with their opinion of both the proposed agreement and the actual negotiations, and thereby lead the negotiations to closure.||