What is a Collective Bargaining Agreement?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Collective bargaining agreements are contracts that have been negotiated between employers and labor unions.
Collective bargaining agreements are contracts that have been negotiated between employers and labor unions.

A collective bargaining agreement is a type of labor contract setting out the terms of employment in a company, as agreed upon during negotiations between labor unions and representatives of the company. Such agreements can include multiple unions in their negotiations and are typically set to expire after one year, at which point a new agreement will need to be negotiated. Collective bargaining agreements are one among numerous tools available to labor unions to help define and protect the rights of individual workers.

Within the U.S. airline industry, employees are allowed to strike only if certain conditions are met.
Within the U.S. airline industry, employees are allowed to strike only if certain conditions are met.

In the negotiations, members of the union authorized to negotiate on behalf of employees meet with authorized representatives of the company. Both sides lay out their needs and a series of talks is conducted to meet in the middle. It generally is necessary to make concessions to reach an agreement, and breaks may need to be taken to allow negotiators to bring proposals back to the side they represent to discuss the proposals and make decisions about whether to accept them.

A collective bargaining agreement ensures laborers are paid a fair wage.
A collective bargaining agreement ensures laborers are paid a fair wage.

If union representatives are not pleased with the way the talks are going, they may threaten to call for a strike until a collective bargaining agreement can be made. The government may become involved at this point if the company is working in an essential industry that would be disrupted by a strike, like the airline industry. Government representatives may offer to act as mediators to facilitate talks so a strike can be averted.

Members of labor unions engage in collective bargaining with their employees so that they may receive acceptable wages.
Members of labor unions engage in collective bargaining with their employees so that they may receive acceptable wages.

Once talks are concluded, a collective bargaining agreement is drawn up, articulating the agreed upon points. Such agreements include terms like salaries and wages, methods for dispute resolution, working hours, safety considerations, and so forth. The resulting labor contract is considered legally enforceable when it is signed by all parties involved. If one party reneges on the collective bargaining agreement, there can be legal penalties.

Union members are made aware of their rights and responsibilities under the agreement in documents published by the union. They can also be involved in the ongoing discussions about the agreement by speaking with union representatives and casting votes for union representatives and other officials. When negotiations begin for a new collective bargaining agreement, the process of soliciting input from employees and union representatives will begin again in order to bring new terms to the table.

Employees in unionized workplaces can join the union after paying dues. Joining the union gives people access to support provided by the union, from assistance with disputes in the workplace to compensation in the event of a strike. People working in union environments are often strongly encouraged to join the union to access the union's benefits.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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    • Collective bargaining agreements are contracts that have been negotiated between employers and labor unions.
      By: Kheel Center
      Collective bargaining agreements are contracts that have been negotiated between employers and labor unions.
    • Within the U.S. airline industry, employees are allowed to strike only if certain conditions are met.
      By: Pavel Losevsky
      Within the U.S. airline industry, employees are allowed to strike only if certain conditions are met.
    • A collective bargaining agreement ensures laborers are paid a fair wage.
      By: Andreas Karelias
      A collective bargaining agreement ensures laborers are paid a fair wage.
    • Members of labor unions engage in collective bargaining with their employees so that they may receive acceptable wages.
      By: Marzky Ragsac Jr.
      Members of labor unions engage in collective bargaining with their employees so that they may receive acceptable wages.