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Survey finds employers confident in bargaining with unions

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A survey by Arlington-based Bloomberg BNA finds employers are confident heading into this year’s bargaining rounds with unions.

The company’s 27th annual Employer Bargaining Objectives report is based on responses from 117 employers representing a wide range of industries throughout the U.S.

The report lists employers’ bargaining ‘‘wish list’’ on a wide range of issues, including compensation, health care, life insurance, retirement and pension benefits, paid leave and job security.

Nine out of 10 of employers surveyed are either fairly confident or highly confident of obtaining the goals they have set for their labor agreements, virtually the same level of overall confidence found by last year’s survey (89 percent).

The report notes that the recession and slow recovery have had a significant effect on collective bargaining.

Unemployment has remained comparatively high. The report notes that many employers not only are delaying hiring decisions until economic conditions improve, but also are considering ways to decrease the size of their permanent work forces.

Key findings from survey include:

• Gloomy outlooks continue to outpace rosy projections, but employers are slightly more upbeat about the financial outlook than they were a year ago.
• Health care and wages again will predominate at the bargaining table in 2012, and remain the areas where employers are most likely to seek concessions from labor.
• Negotiations over paid leave likely will be far less contentious.
• Two-tier compensation systems could be on the wane, as employers appear to be backing off demands for this type of arrangement.
• At best, most employers will propose modest wage increases in their next contracts, and quite a few will bargain for no change in wage levels for bargaining-unit employees.
• Employers will continue to push to shift health care costs to workers.
• Most employers expect to bargain contracts of three years in length.


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