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Preparing for Negotiations: Information about your employer and industry trends

 Unifor National Research Department

 Bargaining committees can prepare themselves for negotiations by dedicating some time to getting a solid understanding of the financial position of their employer, and understanding the latest trends and developments in the sector. Basic information about your employer may be readily available on their websites (typically under a section called “investor relations”).

A review of the employer’s financial reports can be helpful, and most employers report quarterly. Although the full financial reports are often difficult to comprehend in detail, Committee members do not need to be experts in finance and accounting to review them, and carefully examine the press release associated with financial reports to see how the employer is portraying their situation. Many employers also prepare power point-style presentations to accompany their financial reports, or presentations aimed toward investors or government agencies.  These often contain useful information on broader trends in the industry, comparisons among employers and even outline major developments on their own overall strategy.

Of course, employers have a lot of freedom to report information to their best advantage, and it is often useful to look for independent reports from journalists in newspapers, business magazines and trade magazines.  If the company is “publicly-traded” (which means they issue stock on the stock market), a good place to look is Google Finance. Once you locate the stock symbol, you will find links to the latest financial coverage, stock developments and news headlines about the company https://www.google.ca/finance. Of course there is more information on the internet that can be digested, but a look at other sources of information helps round out the picture.

Having a good sense of how the employer portrays its overall position is often helpful, however it may be important to get a better understanding about how our operations are performing.  Many employers make regular presentations to bargaining committees about the state of the business.  At times these kinds of presentations are straightforward and transparent, but of course they can sometimes skew information as well.

If the Committee has concerns about the employer’s overall financial health, it can sometimes be a good strategy to ask the employer to provide an overview and presentation to the Committee as part of negotiations. Asking the employer to disclose information about their financial position, particularly as it may impact our members, means the employer has to provide honest answers as part of their obligation to bargain in good faith.

If the Committee is very interested in learning more about their employer, and would like to take a deeper look in preparation for negotiations, an excellent resource is the “Strategic Corporate Research” website. This website was designed to assist unions prepare for bargaining, and to support campaigns, by Professor Tom Juravich at the University of Massachusetts (who has experience in both Canada and the U.S. and regularly provides seminars for unions in Canada). The website provides a good overview of how to approach corporate and on-line research, tutorials and other resources. http://strategiccorporateresearch.org/

 The Unifor Research Department, though your National Representative, can also assist Committees by providing financial and economic research into the position of the employer, along with industry trends and developments. Additionally, the Research Department works with each of our Sector Councils to provide periodic research on overall trends and developments in the industry, and analysis of key bargaining issues and trends.  Comprehensive reviews of some Unifor sectors are available on this site.

 

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