Definitions for Negotiations

Agreement - The act of coming to a mutual decision, position or arrangement which results in a legally binding contract. This contract is typically in writing.

Arbitration - An informal process that is used to resolve contract disputes. The arbitration is conducted by a mutually selected arbitrator (neutral) and the arbitrator's decision is binding on both parties. Click here to watch a short video about grievance arbitration.

Bargaining - A series of discussions for the purpose of negotiating a contract.

Caucus - During a meeting if one side or the other needs a break to discuss a contract issue they may ask for a caucus (break). It is wise not to take too many caucuses because it delays the bargaining process. Yet caucuses may lead to settlement because it allows each side time to discuss an issue without the other side present. Note: Typically the side asking for the caucus leaves the room and allows the other side to remain seated.

Collective Bargaining - In the United States unions are allowed to negotiate with employers over wages, hours, terms and conditions of employment. This is called collective bargaining because it is a collective effort on the part of the union to bargain for the employees it represents.

Comparables - When negotiating a contract each side looks at similar employment/labor contracts. This is called "looking at comparable contracts" or simply "comparables." 

Concessions - When one side concedes to the demands of the other during negotiations (bargaining) of a contract. For example, the employees concede to pay more for health insurance than they did in a previous contract. (This is also called a "give back.")

Contract - A binding agreement between at least two parties that is usually in writing.

Cost of Living - The amount of money (income) needed to sustain a certain level of living, including basis expenses such as housing, food and clothing. 

Cost-Out - Typically contracts involve many issues that have a cost. Prior to a meeting to discuss (negotiate/bargain) a contract each side will figure out the basic costs of the contract. 

Good Faith Bargaining - Both sides to an agreement must bargain in good faith. This means that the parties meet with the intent to settle the contract. It does not mean that either side must concede to anything but it does mean that both sides must tell the truth at the table.

Mediation - An informal process where a neutral mediator helps the parties settle their contract disputes. The mediator does not issue a written finding and her/his notes are confidential. Click here to view a brief video about mediation

Provision - A condition or requirement discussed in a legal document, such as a contract. 

Negotiations - A series of discussions to settle a contract. (See bargaining) Click here to view a brief video about negotiations

Notes - Each side takes notes during every meeting concerning negotiations. Notes should be taken during meetings with your boss (professor), preparation meetings with your side before negotiations, and during negotiations. The notes should state who was present, who was absent, the date, the contract provisions discussed and summarize what each side said at the meeting. The notes should be detailed. Any contract provision that is TA'd must be included in the notes. (The common problem with notes is not that you write too much but that you write too little.)

Tentative Approval - The tentative approval or agreement means that the bargaining teams agree to the contract provision but it still must be ratified by a board or union membership. When the parties agree on a contract provision they may initial the provision and put the letters TA next to their initials. Typically they also state the date of the TA.