Feature

Experienced Players Hooked on Challenge of Negotiations

Catherine A. Cocchio

positive relationships; that may be seen as more of a feminine trait but I’m sure there are some men who approach it this way too. Once you get the other side to understand the problem, there’s mutual goodwill to come up with a solution.

“When things get difficult, I’ll be tough,” Card adds. “I’ll stick to what I think, but to be effective, you have to be collaborative. You have to understand the other side’s problem. When you can show them you do, they appreciate it. Then you try to explain your side and get at what can be done to address the issue. Not everyone has that style. No matter how collaborative you want to be, if management doesn’t, you’re stuck.”
Card agrees that differences in the way people approach negotiating are more often related to personality than gender: “I’ve only worked with one male staff officer, the rest have been female.” Julie Stanley can’t comment on differences between male and female negotiating styles, since in the last few years all of her table teams have been women only. Provincial numbers indicate that about 60 percent of chief negotiators or presidents serving as such are female, so it’s not so surprising these three locals have limited experience with male negotiators and/or staff officers.

“We always try to have at least one man on our committee,” Stanley says, “but they seem to have other things come up and they’re unable to stay on. We train them, but before they really get to sink their teeth into it, they’re on to something else. Having men on the committee is not so much a question of equity, it’s a matter of representation of your membership.”

Challenges and rewards

Each of these leaders is energized by the challenge of meeting the demands of her position. For McLean one of the biggest challenges is creating a solution that’s doable and acceptable to the other side on issues like workload. Her greatest reward, and one of the reasons she enjoys negotiating, is seeing areas of concern get addressed and the local’s ideas come to fruition: “We worked for years to get gains in our top-up for maternity leave, and an increase to eight hours from seven for EI. Finally, this round was successful. That was gratifying.” According to Terry Card, “Negotiating isn’t much different than occasional teaching. If you’ve prepared the best you can, then you enter negotiations with confidence. You anticipate responses from the board, so you can develop strategies.” Card takes advantage of every opportunity to educate the board about issues unique to occasional teachers. With each changeover in administration, the education process begins again. But seeing how each agreement builds toward improvement keeps her

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