The other thing you have to do is be tough on job performance and problem employees. Know the rules of the game, know the rules about discipline, discharge, dealing with someone who says he has personal problems, and gain the reputation of not turning a blind eye to obvious employee or work unit performance problems, because all that happens is "why are we being centered out for performance problems, when John Smith over there has a work unit that we know is inefficient and nobody is addressing that inefficiency. Well, those are the kind of things that have to be addressed corporately to make sure that management is not soft on job performance and problem employees. There has to be a clear message out there that you are going to be fair when dealing with problem employees, fair when dealing with job performance - but you are going to deal with it.
The other thing you have to do is regularly re-visit policies, procedures, work operations. Too often management preaches to the union that 'we've got to change the way we operate& without asking the union 'what are the other parts of our operation that you think have to be changed', not just the ones that we have identified. There are probably inefficient ways that have never been addressed because you haven't asked the employees, you haven't asked the union to give you feedback. It is always directed from the other way, where you as a group, or as one person, has made your mind up that is wrong. I say two things. One, consult with the union before you make changes that are obviously going to raise their ire. Secondly, even if there are no changes coming, consult with them regularly and ask them "we wouldn't mind your ideas about what we are doing here".
The other thing that rarely happens, and maybe it's happening in your industry, hopefully more than it is in others, is that there has to be recognition for jobs well done. There are a hell of a lot of good workers out there that are not being recognized for the kind of performance they put in. Not one of these "That a Boy" once a year with the employee of the year stuff. I am talking about regularly, just seeing the way some piece of work was done, whether it is a welder or machinist, and saying "Wow, that was first. class". Hell, how much time and effort does it take to go and tell somebody - that was a first class job. Because, I'll tell you, if it was screwed up, you'd be all over that guy. Why aren't you going to the people and recognizing that some jobs are well done. Most of you people come from tradesman or operation ranks where you have done those kind of jobs. You will recognize right away when you see something that's a class job. Well, no harm feeding that back, and as I've said not on the basis that I haven't given 3 little "That a Boy's" this week - I am talking about ones that are genuinely felt. Everybody sees through that phony stuff, so don't bother.
Don't take any shortcuts with respect to health and safety issues. One, because you are shown to be a non-caring employer. Secondly, if there is one thing unions like to take management on about, it's a health and safety issue. Because it's a parenthood issue, they can't loose on the basis that somebody's safety is at risk. If you have any influence with the people who prepare the capital budgets, emphasize to them you are not taking shortcuts on health and safety.