Feature

Experienced Players Hooked on Challenge of Negotiations

Catherine A. Cocchio

no longer resist the call to broaden her leadership skills by joining the collective bargaining team in 2001, despite abusy life juggling teaching, single parenthood, and union involvement. “When I started getting interested in negotiating, I realized it was an important part of overall leadership development. It was an area I hadn’t gotten involved in yet. Before that, I had three small children and was a single parent. I could only cope with going to work every day. I couldn’t give a lot of time to the union. I was involved, but I knew negotiations took a lot of after-school time. As the children grew, I had more time, and I could get more involved.” By 2002 she assumed the role of vice-president, moving on to become president of the local in 2004.

“I had a lot of experience in the union with committee work. The summer before I became president, I read books on leadership and women in leadership to prepare myself. I also spent time teaching myself about negotiations and how that whole flow chart works, so I felt pretty confident,” McLean reflects. She also attended provincial workshops. Her local’s past president, Marina Howlett, provided a tough, collaborative, and effective role model.

Experience and skill

Steeped in experience, all three women bring similar skill sets to the table. “Negotiators need good communications skills, mutual respect, a collaborative attitude, and good day-to-day working relationships with the board,” according to McLean. “Good organizational and presentation skills are also key.”

To that list, Stanley would add the ability to solve problems creatively, flexibility, and a good memory. “You have to be willing to take a risk, and able to think clearly with little sleep. And you have to remember that you don’t know everything. I rely on everyone else on the team for input; my president and vice-president definitely.”

Terry Card believes that “having a broad picture of the perspectives of the board, your local membership, and provincial issues is important. Having patience, and an understanding that progress can be slow and incremental, are essential. Building a strong collective agreement takes time. You also have to communicate so that your members know where you’ve been, and where you’re going.”
Communicating with members is important, but it’s equally important to communicate with administration, Ruth McLean argues. “Laying the groundwork for negotiations starts years before in labour management meetings, when you’re suggesting solutions. It only culminates at negotiations. At that point, you put the suggestions into collective agreement language and bargain them. By then, they’re not new to management. They’re used to it and expect to see it at the table.”

“I’m not one to butt heads,” McLean continued. “I have a strong belief in the power of

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