Collective bargaining is the process of negotiation between trade unions (or labor unions, as they are called in the United States) and employers (represented by management) in respect of the terms and conditions of employment of employees, such as wages, hours of work, working conditions and grievance procedures, and about the rights and responsibilities of trade unions. The result of the negotiation is often referred to as a collective bargaining agreement.
The term is reputed to have been coined by the British academic Beatrice Webb in the late 19th century to describe a process alternative to that of individual bargaining between an employer and its individual employees. Other writers have emphasised the conflict resolution aspects of collective bargaining, but in Britain the most important refinement was that made by Allan Flanders, who defined it as a process of rule-making, leading to joint regulation in industry. The term is usually seen as necessarily containing an element of negotiation and hence as distinct from processes of consultation, from which negotiation is absent, and where outcomes are determined unilaterally by the employer.
In Britain collective bargaining has been, and has been endorsed as, the dominant and most appropriate means of regulating workers' terms and conditions of employment, in line with ILO Convention No. 84 for many years. However, the importance of collective bargaining in Britain and elsewhere in the industrialized world has been declining considerably since the early 1980s.
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