Interest-based bargaining (IBB) is a collaborative approach to enterprise bargaining.
Traditionally, enterprise bargaining is adversarial. Parties approach the process with pre-determined positions or a log of claims.
IBB is different: it is consensus-seeking and cooperative. It focuses on the interests that underly positions or claims.
IBB aims to ensure that each party is satisfied that their interests have been addressed. IBB is also sometimes called mutual gains bargaining or principled negotiation.
Read more about the difference between interests and positions
Interest-based bargaining can:
During interest-based bargaining, parties aim to:
The union representing employees at ABC Manufacturing make a claim for a $60 transport allowance. (They don’t tell the company they would accept $45.)
Management offer a $20 allowance (even though they would be able to pay $30).
Neither party will move from their positions. Negotiations come to a standstill.
The company and the union decide to take an interest-based approach to the issue.
The parties share information. The union explains their underlying reason for wanting the transport allowance: the local bus company is about to cancel their late services, which means workers will have to use their own transport to get home at the end of the afternoon shift.
The union has estimated that this will cost each worker an extra $45 a week.
ABC Manufacturing explains why they can’t afford the allowance: the company is in a severe cash crisis and simply cannot afford any additional expense.
However, the company and the union agree that the extra transport expense faced by workers is a concern.
Together they look for possible solutions to help the employees with end-of-shift transport while ensuring the business can continue to stay competitive and profitable. This becomes a more creative conversation than a traditional bargaining dispute.
IBB suits employers and employees with good working relationships and those who want to improve difficult relationships.
All parties must consent to the process and be genuinely willing to work together. It won’t work when only one party is willing to commit.
IBB involves a high level of information-sharing and genuine communication, so trust and respect between the parties is important.
Importantly, IBB is not an ‘all or nothing’ process. Parties can use it just for negotiating particular issues or only at particular stages of the bargaining process. Parties can come back to traditional methods whenever they want.
Watch our case study videos to see how interest-based bargaining has worked for other workplaces
Our guide to interest-based bargaining has information on how to start IBB, as well as a suggested bargaining model, some useful tips and basic ground rules. You can also read more about how interest-based approaches make for better workplaces.
We also have some videos to help you learn more about how IBB works:
Once you’ve decided to take an interest-based approach to bargaining, you can use our:
We also offer support through our Cooperative Workplaces program. The program is for workplaces that want to try interest-based approaches. A Commission Member will work with you to deliver training and help you facilitate the process. They will also offer guidance and advice as you make the change to using an interest-based approach. The program is free.