CBA Negotiator


Every 2 or 3 years, management and union leaders of companies sit down with their respective Collective Bargaining Agreement (or CBA) Negotiators, who are usually lawyers and whose expertise lie on their in-depth knowledge of labor laws, to discuss employee benefits until the next collective bargaining agreement comes again. In a negotiating panel, both parties usually draft their own proposals to be presented to the other party. Each side’s CBA lawyers would scrutinize, peruse, and interpret every word and clause that the other side’s party presented. This scrutinizing, perusing and interpreting every word and clause is the reason CBA lawyers are paid top dollar. Before anyone is advised to sign anything, the CBA lawyers would first give a go signal that all the fine prints are indeed fine and okay. Normally, there would be point of contentions and there will be some points that would be readily acceptable. In order, not to keep on reviewing all the terms on the proposal, those readily accepted terms are usually considered good and those contestable points would be the focus of discussion when both parties meet again for the next round of talks.

It should be understood that CBA lawyers are only in an advisory capacity. They can only tell their clients what are permissible and what are not permissible according to the law. It is always the clients who would have the last say whether the terms are acceptable for them. For example, the United Workers of ABC Steel Company doesn’t agree to the proposal of management to give a 5% increase in wages when they know that management can very well afford a 12% increase. So they tell their lawyer that they would not accept the proposal and wants 12%. Next round of negotiations, management gave a counter proposal of 7% but hospitalization coverage would be double up to 100% of present coverage. Still the workers would not budge because they really want something they can feel every month and not only when they fell sick.

So the union leaders tell their lawyers to tell management that 10% and 50% increase in hospitalization coverage would be acceptable. The lawyers would go back and forth until there is room for discussions. Discussions will only stop if there is no more room for negotiations like both parties gave their final offers and it’s a take it or leave it situation or when both parties have come to a resolution and have met halfway on each others terms. Collective bargaining agreements could take months or sometimes years before a resolution could be reached, so when a CBA gets resolved effortlessly and smoothly, usually, CBA lawyers are given big bonuses. Speaking of bonuses, sometimes, during the course of negotiations, more likely on the side of management, for example the initial proposal of the union is a 15% wage increase. Some lawyers are given bonuses if the workers accepts a percentage lower than what was originally asked by the union.

CBA negotiating is indeed lucrative as companies who have unions are usually those with large capitalizations. Opportunities are never scarce as more and more unions and workers associations are being formed. Those eyeing to become CBA lawyers can take up Industrial Relations courses as their pre-law course before enrolling in a proper law school.