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Collective bargaining

One of the aims of a trade union is to negotiate with employers about matters affecting their members and other employees. Once a trade union is recognised in a workplace, the negotiations they have with the employer are called collective bargaining; these negotiations will be regarding terms and conditions of employment.

Trade unions and employers will agree on how the process will operate, for example:

  • who will represent the workers, or group of workers (bargaining unit) in negotiations
  • which workers are included in the bargaining unit
  • how often meetings will take place
  • which issues, including which terms and conditions will be discussed
  • how failures to agree will be resolved
  • how discussions will work if more than one trade union is recognised

For trade unions and employers who face problems at work which result in a dispute Acas can help. Collective conciliation can move parties towards a resolution of a dispute through the expertise of an impartial and independent third party - for example through the use of Acas services.

Collective agreements

Where collective bargaining has lead to an agreement, for example pay increase, these agreements are called collective agreements. Collective agreements within the workplace can cover both union and non-union staff as trade unions often negotiates on behalf of the staff employed in a specific group. This group is known as the bargaining unit.

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Acas Helpline

Call our Helpline on 0300 123 1100 for free support and advice or to check your workplace policies and practices. The Acas Helpline provides free and impartial advice for employers, employees and representatives on a range of employment relations, employment rights, HR and management issues.

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