Creating a Negotiations Timeline

Joel Gerring

By Joel Gerring, MASB Assistant Legal Counsel

DashBoard, Sept. 16, 2015

Remember, it is never too early to start planning ahead for negotiations. Here is a comprehensive negotiations timeline, with questions included, to keep your bargaining team on track as we move through the school year.


Analyze the current contract.

This is vital as it prevents the union’s initial proposal acting as the starting point. It also helps set realistic goals and provides a plan to achieve them.

  • What areas have been troublesome in the past?
  • What areas are troublesome now?
  • What areas are contrary to current legal standards?
  • What areas have hidden meaning?
  • Who will do the analysis?
  • What format will the analysis take?


Determine your bargaining team.

Be honest. A good bargaining team needs several points of view, but must also be capable of working well together and showing a unified front.

  • Who has the time, interest and expertise?
  • Are there any personal agendas to be concerned with?
  • Is negotiation training something we should consider?
  • What is the current, updated, financial status of the district?

Seek input from those who must administer the contract.

  • What language has been specifically problematic for administrators?
  • Integrate the formal analysis with the administrator discussions.


Determine the method of bargaining your team intends to follow.

Different methods pose different challenges in terms of training and the roles of each team member. Success for each method depends upon available resources, that is, “win-win” only works if your district has the resources to “give” something.

  • What would work best for your team and the dynamic that exists with your labor groups? Traditional? Expedited? Win-win?
  • What are the probable expectations from your labor groups on the tone the bargaining will take?
  • Continue to request updated financial status numbers.

Get and share the facts.

This takes time, but is worth it because it reduces arguments regarding the accuracy and interpretation of the data. Keep the other side updated! There is no substitute for accurate numbers.

  • Do we have “bulletproof” data concerning enrollment, revenue, expenses and fund balance?
  • What do the district’s financial trends look like?
  • What will things costs?
  • New insurance caps
  • Steps/lanes
  • On-schedule raises/off-schedule raises
  • Continue to request updated financial status numbers.
  • Do you have projections for next year yet?


Develop your first written proposal.

Written proposals reduce confusion and the potential for regressive bargaining claims.

  • Is it comprehensive, to the point and easy to understand?
  • Does it have a positive tone?
  • Should you obtain approval by the full board for each proposal in order to ensure full support and ownership by board members?

Continue with the process.

  • What are the costs associated with the labor group’s proposals?
  • Subsequent counterproposals should track the “back and forth” between the groups, for clarity.
  • Subsequent proposals should not be regressive.
  • Subsequent proposals should accurately reflect the “quid-pro-quo” that has taken place between the bargaining teams.
  • Continue to request updated financial status numbers.