Bargaining & Negotiation: Differences and similarities


Collective bargaining is a process of negotiating between management and workers represented by their representatives for determining mutually agreed terms and conditions of work which protect the interest of both workers and the management.

According to Dale Yoder’, “Collective bargaining is essentially a process in which employees act as a group in seeking to shape conditions and relation­ships in their employment”.

Michael J. Jucious has defined collective bargaining as “a process by which employers, on the one hand, and representatives of employees, on the other, attempt to arrive at agreements covering the conditions under which employees will contribute and be compensated for their services”.

Thus, collective bargaining can simplify be defined as an agreement collectively arrived at by the representatives of the employees and the employers. By collective bargaining we mean the ‘good faith bargaining’.

It means that proposals are matched with counter proposals and that both parties make every reasonable effort to arrive at an agreement’ It does not mean either party is compelled to agree to a proposal. Nor does it require that either party make any specific concessions.

Why is it called collective bargaining? It is called “collective” because both the employer and the employee act collectively and not individually in arriving at an agreement. It is known as ‘bargaining’ because the process of reaching an agreement involves proposals and counter proposals, offers and counter offers.


The basic objective of collective bargaining is to arrive at an agreement between the management and the employees determining mutually beneficial terms and conditions of employment.

This major objective of collective bargaining can be divided into the following sub-objectives:

  1. To foster and maintain cordial and harmonious relations between the employer/management and the employees.

  2. To protect the interests of both the employer and the employees.
  3. To keep the outside, i.e., the government interventions at bay.
  4. To promote industrial democracy.


The need for and importance of collective bargaining is felt due to the advantages it offers to an organization.

  1. Collective bargaining develops better understanding between the employer and the employ­ees:

It provides a platform to the management and the employees to be at par on negotiation table. As such, while the management gains a better and deep insight into the problems and the aspirations of die employees, on the one hand, die employees do also become better informed about the organisational problems and limitations, on the other. This, in turn, develops better understanding between the two parties.

  1. It promotes industrial democracy:

Both the employer and the employees who best know their problems, participate in the negotiation process. Such participation breeds the democratic process in the organisation.

  1. It benefits the both-employer and employees:

The negotiation arrived at is acceptable to both parties—the employer and the employees.

  1. It is adjustable to the changing conditions:

A dynamic environment leads to changes in employment conditions. This requires changes in organisational processes to match with the changed conditions. Among other alternatives available, collective bargaining is found as a better approach to bring changes more amicably.

  1. It facilitates the speedy implementation of decisions arrived at collective negotiation:

The direct participation of both parties—the employer and the employees in collective decision making process provides an in-built mechanism for speedy implementation of decisions arrived at collective bargaining.

Theories of Collective Bargaining:

There are three important concepts on collective bargaining which have been discussed as follows:

  1. The Marketing Concept and the Agreement as a Contract:

The marketing concept views collective bargaining as a contract for the sale of labour. It is a market or exchange relationship and is justified on the ground that it gives assurance of voice on the part of the organised workers in the matter of sale. The same objective rules which apply to the construction of all commercial contracts are invoked since the union-management relationship is concerned as a commercial one.

According to this theory, employees sell their individual labour only on terms collectively determined on the basis of contract which has been made through the process of collective bargaining.

The uncertainty of trade cycles, the spirit of mass production and competition for jobs make bargain a necessity. The trade union’s collective action provided strength to the individual labourer.

It enabled him to resist the pressure of circumstances in which he was placed and to face an unbalanced and disadvantageous situation created by the employer. The object of trade union policy through all the maze of conflicting and obscure regulations has been to give to each individual worker something of the indispensability of labour as a whole.

It cannot be said whether the workers attained a bargaining equality with employers. But, collective bargaining had given a new- relationship under which it is difficult for the employer to dispense without facing the relatively bigger collective strength.

  1. The Governmental Concept and the Agreement as Law:

The Governmental Concept views collective bargaining as a constitutional system in industry. It is a political relationship. The union shares sovereignty with management over the workers and, as their representative, uses that power in their interests. The application of the agreement is governed by a weighing of the relation of the provisions of the agreement to the needs and ethics of the particular case.

The contract is viewed as a constitution, written by the point conference of union and management representative in the form of a compromise or trade agreement. The agreement lays down the machinery for making executing and interpreting the laws for the industry. The right of initiative is circumscribed within a framework of legislation.

Whenever, management fails to conform to the agreement of constitutional requirements, judicial machinery is provided by the grievance procedure and arbitration.

This creates a joint Industrial Government where the union share sovereignty with management over the workers and defend their group affairs and joint autonomy from external interference.

  1. The Industrial Relations (Managerial) Concept as Jointly Decided Directives:

The industrial relations concept views collective bargaining as a system of industrial governance. It is a functional relationship. Group Government substitutes the State Government. The union representative gets a hand in the managerial role. Discussions take place in good faith and agreements are arrived at. The union joins with company officials in reaching decisions on matters in which both have vital interests. Thus, union representatives and the management meet each other to arrive at a mutual agreement which they cannot do alone.

To some extent, these approaches represent stage of development of the bargaining process itself. Early negotiations were a matter of simple contracting for the terms of sale of labour. Developments of the latter period led to the emergence of the Government theory. The industrial relations approach can be traced to the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947 in our country, which established a legal basis for union participation in the management.

Importance of Collective Bargaining:

The collective bargaining advances the mutual understanding between the two parties i.e., employees and employers.

The role of collective bargaining may be evaluated from the following point of view:

(1) From Management Point of View:

The main object of the organisation is to get the work done by the employees at work at minimum cost and thus earn a high rate of profits. Maximum utilization of workers is a must for the effective management. For this purpose co-operation is required from the side of the employees and collective bargaining is a device to get and promote co-operation. The labour disputes are mostly attributable to certain direct or indirect causes and based on rumors, and misconceptions. Collective bargaining is the best remedial measure for maintaining the cordial relations.

(2) From Labour and Trade Union Point of View:

Labour has poor bargaining power. Individually a worker has no existence because labour is perishable and therefore, the employers succeed in exploiting the labourers.

The working class in united form becomes a power to protect its interests against the exploitation of the employers through the process of collective bargaining.

The collective bargaining imposes certain restrictions upon the employer. Unilateral action is prevented. All employees are treated on equal footings. The conditions of employment and rates of wages as specified in the agreement can be changed only through negotiations with labour. Employer is not free to make and enforce decisions at his will.

Collective bargaining can be made only through the trade unions. Trade unions are the bargaining agents for the workers. The main function of the trade unions is to protect the economic and non- economic interests of workers through constructive programmes and collective bargaining is one of the devices to attain that objective through negotiations with the employers, Trade unions may negotiate with the employer for better employment opportunities and job security through collective bargaining.

(3) From Government Point of View:

Government is also concerned with the process of collective bargaining. Government passes and implements several labour legislations and desires it to be implemented in their true sense. If any person violates the rules and laws, it enforces them by force.

Collective bargaining prevents the Government from using the force because an amicable agreement can be reached between employer and employees for implementing the legislative provisions. Labour problems shall be minimised through collective bargaining and industrial peace shall be promoted in the country without any force.

Collective bargaining is a peaceful settlement of any dispute between worker and employers and therefore it promotes industrial peace and higher productivity resulting an increase in the Gross National Product or the national income of the country.

Main Hindrances for Collective Bargaining:

The main objective of developing collective bargaining technique is to improve the workers-management relations and thus maintain peace in industries. The technique has developed in India only after India got independence and got momentum since then.

The success of collective bargaining lies in the attitude of both management and workers which is actually not consistent with the spirit of collective bargaining in India. There are certain problems which hinder the growth of collective bargaining in India.

The following factors or activities act as hindrances to effective collective bargaining:

(1) Competitive Process:

Collective bargaining is generally becoming a competitive process, i.e., labour and management compete each other at negotiation table. A situation arises where the attainment of one party’s goal appears to be in conflict with the basic objectives of the other party.

(2) Not Well-Equipped:

Both the parties—management and workers—come to the negotiation table without doing their homework. Both the parties start negotiations without being fully equipped with the information, which can easily be collected from company’s records. To start with, there is often a kind of ritual, that of charges and counter charges, generally initiated by the trade union representatives. In the absence of requisite information, nothing concrete is achieved.

(3) Time to Protest:

The immediate objective of the workers’ representatives is always some kind of monetary or other gains, accrue when the economy is buoyant and the employer has capacity to pay. But in a period of recession, when demand of the product and the profits are falling, it is very difficult for the employer to meet the demands of the workers, he might even resort to retrenchment or even closure collective bargaining is no answer to such a situation.

(4) Where Prices are Fixed by the Government:

In industries, where the prices of products are fixed by the Government, it becomes very difficult for the employer to meet the demands of workers which would inevitably lead to a rise in cost of the products produced. Whereas the supply price to the consumers cannot be increased. It will either reduce the profits of the firm or increase the loss. In other words, it will lead to closure of the works, which again is not in the interest of the workers.

(5) Outside Leadership:

Most of the Indian trade unions are led by outsiders who are not the employees of the concerned organisations. Leader’s interests are not necessarily to be identical with that of the workers. Even when his bonafides are beyond doubt, between him and the workers he leads, there cannot be the degree of understanding and communication as would enable him to speak on behalf of the workers with full confidence. Briefly, in the present situation, without strong political backing, a workers’ organisation cannot often bargain successfully with a strong employer.

(6) Multiplicity of Trade Unions:

One great weakness of collective bargaining is the multiplicity of trade unions. In a multiple trade union situation, even a well recognised, union with long standing, stable and generally positive relationship with the management, adopts a militant attitude as its deliberate strategy.

In Indian situation, inter-union rivalries are also present. Even if the unions combine, as at times they do for the purpose of bargaining with the employer they make conflicting demands, which actually confuse employer and the employees.

(7) Appointment of Low-Status Executive:

One of the weaknesses of collective bargaining in India is that the management deputes a low-status executive for bargaining with the employees. Such executive has no authority to commit anything on behalf of the management. It clearly indicates that the management is not at all serious and the union leaders adopt other ways of settling disputes.

(8) Statutory Provisions:

The constraints are also imposed by the regulatory and participative provisions as contained in the Payment of Wages Act, the Minimum Wages Act, and Payment of Bonus Act etc. Such provisions are statutory and are not negotiable.

(9) Fresh Demands at the Time of Fresh Agreement:

At the time when the old agreement is near expiry or well before that, workers representatives come up with fresh demands. Such demands are pressed even when the industry is running into loss or even during the period of depression. If management accepts the demand of higher wages and other benefits, it would prefer to close down the works.

(10) Agreements in Other Industrial Units:

A prosperous industrial unit in the same region may agree with the trade unions to a substantial increase in wages and other benefits whereas a losing industry cannot do that. There is always pressure on the losing industries to grant wages and benefits similar to those granted in other (relatively prosperous) units in the same region.


Negotiation process permeates the interactions of almost everyone in groups and organizations.

In today’s loosely structured organizations, in which members work with colleagues over whom they have no direct authority and with whom they may not even share a common boss, negotiation skills become critical.

The 5 steps of the negotiation process are:

  1. Preparation and Planning.
  2. Definition of Ground Rules.
  3. Clarification and Justification.
  4. Bargaining and Problem Solving.
  5. Closure and Implementation.

Preparation and Planning

Before the start of negations, one must be aware of the conflict, the history leading to the negotiation of the people involved and their perception of the conflict expectations from the negotiations etc.

Before starting the negotiation, it needs to do homework.

Who’s involved and what are their perceptions of the conflict? Moreover before any negotiation takes place; a decision needs to be taken as to when and where a meeting will take place to discuss the problem and who will attend.

Setting a limited time-scale can also be helpful to prevent disagreement from continuing. This stage involves ensuring all the pertinent facts of the situation are known in order to clarify own position.

It also needs to prepare an assessment of what the other parties’ negotiation’s goals are. What are they likely to ask for?

Definition of Ground Rules

Once the planning and strategy are developed, one has to begin defining the ground rules and procedures with the other party over the negotiation itself that will do the negotiation. Where will it take place?

What time constraints, if any will apply? To what issues will negotiations be limited? Will, there be a specific procedure to follow in an impasse is reached? During this phase, the parties will also exchange their initial proposals or demands.

Clarification and Justification

When initial positions have been exchanged both the parties will explain amplify, clarify, bolster and justify their original demands. This need not be confrontational.

Rather it is an opportunity for educating and informing each other on the issues why they are important and how each arrived at their initial demands.

This is the point where one party might want to provide the other party with any documentation that helps support its position.

Bargaining and Problem Solving

The essence of the negotiation process is the actual give and take in trying to hash out an agreement, a proper bargain. It is here where concessions will undoubtedly need to be made by both parties.

Closure and Implementation

The final step in the negotiation process is formalization the agreement that has been worked out and developing and procedures that are necessary for implementation and monitoring.

For major negotiations this will require hammering out the specifics in a formal contract.

Negotiation Process has five stages. In all steps of a negotiation process, the involved parties bargain at a systematic way to decide how to allocate scarce resources and maintain each other’s interest.

Essential Negotiation Strategies

  1. You Can Negotiate Anything

The first thing you should know about negotiating is that everything is fair game, not just cars and houses. At stores, we tend to look at price tags and presume that the offer is final. It rarely ever is. At the very minimum, you should always ask the clerk if they have any coupons available or if any other discounts apply.

  1. Ask to Speak With a Manager or Owner

Most sales clerks don’t really care if you make a purchase or not. They’re getting paid minimum wage, and your purchases won’t put any more money in their pocket. So the second step is to find the person at the store who will directly benefit from the sale. Ideally, you will want to speak with the owner of a small store, but that is impossible with bigger retailers.

  1. Keep a Poker Face

If you see an item you want and exclaim loudly that it’s perfect and that you’ve been seeking it for all of your life, there is little incentive for the other party to negotiate. Always keep your cool and don’t display any unusual interest in the item. When asked, limit your enthusiasm while unfavorably comparing it to other products. Then suggest that you might still be interested for the right price.

The strength of your negotiating position relies on your actual alternatives to this deal. As a buyer, you should never fixate on a single product; always shop around and keep your options open. As a seller, you should always be prepared to seek more potential buyers.

  1. Don’t Make the First Offer and Don’t Negotiate with Yourself

Whether you are buying or selling, you never want to make the first offer. Why? Because the other party may offer a price that is a much better deal than what you initially had in mind. If you’re buying, consider the starting point to be the list price, but make it clear that the price is too high. From there, ask the seller if there is any flexibility and force the seller to offer you a lower price. It is only at that point you should make your first offer.

But once you have made your offer, do not volunteer another price unless and until the other party has responded with a counteroffer. Expect the negotiations to be a back-and-forth process, but remain confident throughout.

  1. Bundle

A great way to augment your negotiation over price is to include other items. When you reach an impasse in your negotiations, an offer to purchase multiple quantities of the item or additional items might trigger flexibility on the part of the seller.

The seller may be willing to lose a customer if it’s a single item. But when a seller has the opportunity to make a much larger transaction, there is a much greater likelihood he will be amenable to a lower price.

Likewise, as a seller you can negotiate the buyer to a higher price by throwing in an extra item. If you’re selling your house, for instance, and you have brand new porch furniture that fits the deck perfectly, offer to include it in the price you want as an incentive to the buyer.

  1. Barter

Do you have any items that might be of interest to the seller? Could you offer some services that would be of value to the seller? Consider making a trade to eliminate or significantly offset the need for actual dollars in a transaction. The idea is to use creativity in order to reach a deal that might otherwise not come to fruition. As a starting point, you can find many bartering websites online.

  1. Use Silence and Time as a Tactic

Never respond too quickly to an offer. Pausing or even suspending negotiations can convey that you’re not desperate to close the deal and that you have other options. Silence can force a surprising amount of pressure on the other party as well.

  1. Be Willing to Walk Away

Even if it’s the car, television, or house of your dreams, if the seller won’t come down to the maximum price you have set for your budget, force yourself to walk out of the store or away from the deal. This strong stance more often than not will get you the price you’re looking for, as the seller doesn’t want to lose the sale. In flea markets and overseas, for example, I often get my best price only as I am literally walking away from the shop.

  1. Keep It Light

You never want to let negotiations become too tense. Always feel free to smile and inject some humor in the conversation. Lightening up the mood can ingratiate you with your opponent while also conveying your negotiating strength. If you do not appear to be taking the negotiation extremely seriously, your opponent may conclude that you are ready to move on if you don’t get the price you want.

  • Use Written Communication If Possible

In foreign markets, it’s common to negotiate in writing on a pad using just numbers. This solves language barriers while producing a record of the negotiations. Furthermore, it’s just easier to communicate non-verbally when negotiating back and forth. Non-verbal communication strips away all of cues that one’s body language and tone of voice can give away which is why most real estate deals are made through realtors and in writing.

Outside of foreign markets, you will find it easier to negotiate back and forth over email or even through an online chat for customer service. Email is a great medium for negotiating the purchase or sale of a car or other household goods on websites like Craigslist. Email also provides you with the time to analyze the situation and make an educated, non-panicked counteroffer.

  • Practice

The only way to become an expert negotiator is to practice a lot. In the United States, the closest things we have to traditional markets are flea markets and garage sales. Spending a day or two bickering over t-shirts or used furniture will improve your negotiating skills and give you the confidence that will be valuable when you purchase a car or a house. It’s also a great idea to practice in foreign countries, where bargaining is much more widely accepted and even expected.

Bargaining Negotiation
Bargaining is only about price Negotiation is only about winning
Bargaining is more of a selfish conversation Negotiation is sensible
Bargaining is a technique used by people, to pay less for a thing or service Technique that is not just for money and includes the quality and other features also
Waste of time No waste of time
May or may not satisfied both parties Satisfied both parties


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