Contract negotiations is a delicate art form. There is always a little pushing and pulling from both sides. Good negotiators can get what they want without giving up too much. When negotiating contracts both sides have a duty to openly and honestly bargain. We call this ‘bargaining in good faith’.
To bargain in good faith means that both sides will work to find common ground, and will abide by the terms agreed to in the negotiating process. The ability to trust the other side is key to the negotiating process. Sometimes, this trust is lost. When that happens, one side gets burned. In negotiating terms we call this ‘bad faith bargaining’. Bargaining in bad faith means that you never intended to follow through on the actions you agreed to in the negotiation process.
The Hillsboro-Deering School Board (HDSB) was charged with bad faith bargaining earlier this year. The New Hampshire Labor News covered the story back in January of how the HDSB failed to vote on the contract their negotiating team had agreed to. The main context of the unfair labor practice filed against the HDSD is that their lead negotiator, and school board chairperson, failed to advocated for the agreed upon contract.
On June 28th the New Hampshire Public Employees Labor Relations Board (NH PELRB) issued a ruling that the Hillsboro-Deering School District did negotiate in ‘bad faith’.
“The School Board committed an unfair labor practice in violation of RSA 273-A:5, I (e) when it failed to vote on ratification of the tentative agreement and when its negotiating team member failed to support the agreement during the ratification meeting as required under the ground rules, the statute, and PELRB decisions.”
Attorney Terri Donovan, Director of Collective Bargaining and Field Services for AFT-NH, explained importance of this decision.
“This decision is important because it clearly lays out in a comprehensive decision from the NH PELRB the elements of good faith bargaining and the responsibilities of negotiating teams. As we enter into negotiations for a successor agreement, it is the hope of the Union that the School Board will not only understand their obligations but negotiate in good faith going forward.”
As previously stated, negotiating is a delicate process of give and take. Without trust from both sides we would never be able to reach an agreement. Without an agreement, nobody is happy.
Here is the full decision by the NH PELRB.