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November 19, 2013  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

6 tips to strengthen relationships with unions

Being in a transportation management position can sometimes feel like being in between a rock and a hard place. However, directors who have effective working relationships with their unions say frequent communication, pitching in to build a team, and researching collective bargaining agreements help.

by Nicole Schlosser - Also by this author


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Bus drivers at Austintown Local Schools  take part in a safety event. Director Colleen Murphy drove during a shortage, strengthening her relationship with the drivers.
<p>Bus drivers at Austintown Local Schools  take part in a safety event. Director Colleen Murphy drove during a shortage, strengthening her relationship with the drivers.</p>
3. Keep an open mind on requests
Walker reminds directors not to automatically assume that the union is against management. The union may request an addendum to its bargaining agreement that may help your department or assist you in hiring and retaining good employees.  

While requests for higher salary and benefits definitely burden cash-strapped school districts, such changes may also increase the district’s hiring potential for better candidates, Walker points out.  
“Bargaining is usually a lengthy process, so take the time to evaluate each request,” he recommends.

4. Know the collective bargaining agreement
Johnson and McDonald say that becoming familiar with the collective bargaining agreement and working to keep the contract minimal in size are important. They keep theirs at one page, but they have seen some that were up to 30 pages.

The more rules there are, the more opportunity you have to accidentally break them, Johnson adds.

5. Research bargaining agreements of other districts
Particularly with neighboring districts, directors need to be familiar with what other unions are doing, so they won't be caught off-guard when their union makes similar requests.

“Drivers meet other drivers on field trips and love to talk about their working environment,” Walker says.

6. Emphasize equality
McDonald and Johnson say they stress that every driver, no matter what size bus they drive or student population they carry, is of equal importance. That applies to enforcing the union’s agreements as well.

McDonald, with her past school bus driving experience, can see through some requests to the agendas of some drivers and try to ensure that the resulting agreement affects everybody equally.

“We didn’t write it. We didn’t vote on it. They did. And once they ratify it and hand it to us, as managers, we enforce these rules equally,” Johnson says.

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