Labor Relations Negotiator  What They Do

Insider Info

dotLabor relations negotiators are business professionals who act as a link between management and employees. Negotiators may work for either a labor union or the management of a company or organization.

dotDepending on where they work, labor relations negotiators may deal with complaints, handle problem labor situations and negotiate contracts.

dotIn smaller companies, a human resources manager may handle these duties. In large companies, several labor relations negotiators might be needed.

dotIn business and industry, a contract is an agreement between management and employees outlining what is expected of employees and what employees can expect from management. It deals with issues like salaries, holidays, conduct and sick pay.

dotWhen it comes time to get together and discuss what's in a contract, representatives from both the union and the management meet for a process called collective bargaining.

"In labor negotiations, you basically go through the whole contract line by line, and you deal with salaries and benefits and anything that's in the contract. You either update it or omit it," says Sandi Jackson. She is a labor relations negotiator for a teachers' union.

dotExperts say a lot of what people think about labor negotiation is untrue. They say people have a misconception that labor negotiators are at each other's throats, arguing all night long. The real situation is a lot different.

"Some sessions can be downright friendly as long as everyone is patient and keeps their head. Most of the bargaining I've been involved in has ended on time and with everyone still on speaking terms," says labor relations negotiator Adrian Cameron.

dotWhile many professions call for people who are good with other people, this is especially true of labor relations negotiators. Communication skills are their most important tool in a job that involves dealing with people in difficult situations day in and day out.

dotIf you're cut out for this type of work, being a labor relations negotiator can be a very rewarding job. "It's a great job that offers you lots of wonderful experiences," says Jackson.

dotLabor relations negotiation is basically a 9-to-5 office job, although negotiators may be called on to travel for meetings and may work overtime in difficult negotiations.

dotLabor relations negotiators say their most important skill is problem solving. Their most important job is to act as a link between management and employees. They make sure everyone has the right information.

"I have to make sure people get the information they need in terms of what's going on with things like salary increases and contracting out," says Jackson.

At a Glance

Work with employers, unions and employees to settle disputes and solve problems

  • A lot of labor relations negotiators come to this field after working in human resources or legal occupations
  • Communications skills are the most important tool for this job
  • Most people doing this work have master's degrees