Questioning Negotiating Skills in Light of the Transformation of Collective Bargaining: Lessons from France and Quebec

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 18:00
Oral Presentation
Elodie BETHOUX, Ecole Normale Supérieure Paris Saclay, France
Camille DUPUY, Université Rouen Normandie, France
Patrice JALETTE, School of Industrial Relations, University of Montreal, Montreal, QC, Canada
Annette JOBERT, Ecole Normale Supérieure Paris Saclay, France
Melanie LAROCHE, School of Industrial Relations, University of Montreal, Montreal, QC, Canada
From the 1980s the onward decentralization of collective bargaining, from national or sector level to company level, has received much attention in the literature, in North America as well as in Europe. But the growing number of agreements concluded at company level is not a mere quantitative process. It is closely related to a more complex shift in regulating employment relations and in defining labor rules which questions the autonomy of industrial relations actors at company level and their capacity to act as rule-makers. In the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis negotiation practices at company level have given rise to even more complex practices and issues for unions and for management, both of which have seen their routines put to the test.

In this context the paper questions negotiating skills in light of the transformation of collective bargaining, examining the difficulties that industrial relations actors experience in their daily practices. The paper is based on a comparative study on the cases of France and Quebec, which allows to compare countries with different bargaining structures (longer experience of decentralized bargaining in Quebec than in France) but also to compare how collective bargaining training is diversely thought of and is organized in these contexts. It thus reveals to what extent negotiation is considered (or not) as a professional activity by the very actors who participate in the rounds of negotiations.

The research design combines focus groups and individual interviews with union leaders and negotiators, labor relations experts and human resources managers in the two countries. Three questions are addressed to: How has collective bargaining evolved over the past 10 years in terms of agenda, process and outcomes? What are the impacts of these changes on negotiators’ activities and profession? Which skills are considered necessary to act as a professional negotiator?