In all aspects of society life, conflicts are bound to occur. These conflicts are normal and may in fact contribute to the health of the community. However, the positive contribution of conflicts greatly hinges on the conflict resolution schemes which are employed. As such, it is imperative that the people involved in the conflict resolve the issues constructively. Key to the constructive resolution of conflicts is the use of negotiation tactics and strategies.
In this paper, I shall review a conflict resolution between the Newtown School board and the Teacher’s association. As a member of the teacher’s association bargaining team, I shall analyze the various bargaining issues and the negotiation process that the two sides engage in so as to arrive at an agreement that suits parties across both sides of the divide.
The first step in the negotiation process is to describe what it is that you want to negotiate. This is based on the concept that negotiation involves a conflict about particular resources. The participants therefore identify if there is a situation that needs to be negotiated. In the Newtown School dispute, the issues at play include the renewal of a contract between the board and the teachers following the expiration of the previous contract.
There exist a number of contentious issues which have so far resulted in the unsuccessful finalization of the new contract.
One of the contentious issues is the desire by the board to decrease the number of programs offered to students as well as decrease the number of teachers under its current employment. In addition to this, the board proposes to increase the workload of the teachers so as to increase the systems effectiveness therefore enabling it to work well within the budgetary constraints.
The teacher’s association bargaining team of which I am a member is opposed to all this proposals by the school board since it sees them as detrimental to the welfare of the teachers. While the board wishes to negotiate a three year contract, the Teacher’s association wants a one year contract which it believes will guarantee flexibility for its members. In addition to this, the my team is opposed to the idea of decreasing the number of teachers in Newtown Schools as well as increasing the work load of the teachers.
Having acknowledged the presence of a conflict, the negotiations can be deemed as being ready to begin. The process ideally begins by both parties presenting their issues which are mostly in the form of demands and goals to be met.
Negotiation involves exchange of proposals and demands so as to reach a solution. The Newtown case in particular presented well defined goals by both parties involved. The goal of my team is to prevent the reduction of the teacher’s work force as well as ensure a flexible contract is given to the teachers.
The Teachers Association team also wants to ensure that the workload of the teachers is not unfairly increased. The goals of the Newtown School board is to reduce the cost of running schools by cutting on the number of teachers employed as well as the number of programs offered at schools. In addition to this, the board aims to increase the number of years for the teaching contract so as to stabilize the situation by creating orderly and predictable budgetary needs.
Despite the presence of these polarized interests between my side and the school board, there exist interests that are common to both sides. Both parties involved are genuinely concerned about the well being of their community and in particular, the quality offered to the children.
As such, it is desirable to reach a solution that does not alienate the teachers association and the school board since these two entities have always coexisted peacefully. In addition to this, both parties are subjected to the pressure of the community to come up with a solution that will not result in derailing of the educational process of the children. These joint interests are very pivotal in the reaching of an agreement.
Once the various positions of the negotiating parties have been established, the negotiating process can commence. For the negotiation process to be undertaken a strategy has to be followed. The strategic choice that was employed in this negotiation was the concession making.
In this strategy, each party is required to reduce their demands or aspirations so as to accommodate the other party. This strategies, applied appropriately, is arguably the most prudent given the fact that both parties involved in the Newtown dispute have their demands and there is little chance of either party giving in to the objectives of the other party without obtaining any gains.
Consensus building is a decision and agreement reached by all the identified parties. Through this process, unanimous agreement over the disputed issue(s) is reached.
At the onset of the negotiating process, both parties were unable to see the common value issues where no opposition existed. Through the negotiation process, my party and the school board have recognized common goals thereby showing us that we are in fact not adversaries. Building on this basis, we have come up with compromises for the community’s and our respective benefit.
One of the issues in which a concession has been reached is the issue or decreasing the teaching force in Newtown. While the reduction in the number of teachers under employment by the board is seen as necessary, my team at the beginning of the negotiation process opposed this move as it would have jeopardized the work security of the Teacher’s Association members.
However, it has been noted that thirty teachers did not return to the system due to either retirement or other reasons. In addition to this, there has been a notable increase (5%) in the number of retirements as the year’s progress.
Both teams have therefore agreed that instead of laying off teachers, the board can suspend employing new teachers in the coming years. As a result of this, the teaching force will naturally decrease without the current teaching force suffering from loss of employment. This is a position that is acceptable to both sides.
The other issue of concern is the term of the contracts. While the school board proposes a three year term, my team demands a one year term contract. Since both sides have their valid arguments to justify their demands, the only way that this matter can be resolved is through compromise.
The two sides therefore agreed on a two year contract which demonstrates a relaxing of the initial demands by both sides. As such, while none of the sides wins, both sides end up with a better bargain that what the other side previously demanded.
Since there was a desire by my team and the Newtown School board members to come up with a solution that would avert a strike, both teams engaged in negotiation efforts to constructively resolve the conflicts at hand. From these negotiation efforts, compromises were made and both teams agreed to terms that were acceptable to all parties.
Since there is goodwill and a desire to avoid dispute by both parties, it can be expected that both parties will fulfill their ends of the bargain therefore leading to a harmonious coexistence.