Keep in mind, I am going to give you my advice, as to what you can do in the roles you play. Is it cultural change? It is difficult for unions to accept my involvement in collective bargaining, accepting the possibility that some collective agreement provisions might be changed to their members disadvantage. But I'll tell you, the word concession is not being used as much. The union doesn't say rally the troops on the basis of concessions. There are changes being made to some collective agreements at a slow pace that take away some of the conditions that the unions had in the past. It is not aggressive, it is not ambitious, but slowly, surely, little chips are falling off the table and unions in many industries are coming around to accepting that collective agreements might not look the same the next time around. Most unions though are having great difficulty accepting that traditional work jurisdiction and methods of operation must be reassessed and changed if they are found to be unproductive and inefficient. In my mind, the rules about what workers do and how and when they do it, will relax, but it is a slow process.
What can you people do in terms of actual doing or thinking? First of all, I believe that you have to accept the fact that the companies enthusiasm for rapid changes in work methods and procedures is not generally shared by unions in the work force. Management must accept the fact that change and increased flexibility will come at a slower pace than desired.
You must in your roles demonstrate respect for union representatives. They didn't choose you, you didn't choose them. You deal with what cards you are dealt. Consult with them regularly. Try to break down the 'them and us' syndrome and conduct all your dealings above board. Too many times there are schemes being made by management about work changes and procedures, and then you lay it on the union, and the union representative has to react. Well, he has to react because he got a surprise and when you get a surprise you spook. Sometimes you overreact when you spook. In my mind at your level, the best surprise is no surprise. Even though you may not respect that union representative and wouldn't want to spend an evening sitting and having a beer with him, and going hunting and fishing with him, you have to deal with him on a day to day basis, same as he has to deal with you.
The only way you will get respect in your role and what you are trying to do, is to give him respect in what he has to do. Personalities should not be mixed into this. There are different personalities in this room, the same as there are different personalities in union representatives. Accept the personality you have and adjust your way of behavior to the personality. When I was on both sides of the fence at the Railway the biggest job I liked was vice-president of Engineering, running the maintenance groups, all the guys out fixing the tracks, working equipment, and the whole business. We had seven different unions in house, not just 1 or 2 like most companies have. In dealing with those seven, I dealt with seven different personalities. With three of the personalities, the only message they understood was thumper time. You thump me, I thump you. It was mutual intimidation, it was a Mexican standoff all the time. They were comfortable with it, I had to grow comfortable with it. So what happened was, when I was dealing with those representatives, there was no schmoozing.