Pattern bargaining

Pattern bargaining is a process in labour relations, where a trade union gains a new and superior entitlement from one employer, and then uses that agreement as a precedent to demand the same entitlement or a superior one from other employers.

In the United States, pattern bargaining was pioneered by unions such as the United Auto Workers and the Teamsters. The first step of the bargaining process is the identification of a target employer that is most likely to agree to a favorable employment contract. For the selected company, this provides an opportunity to influence the contract for the industry, while the downside is the risk of a labor disruption if negotiations stall or fail. Once this contract has been successfully negotiated and ratified by the unionized workers, the union declares it a "pattern agreement" and presents it to the other employers as a take-it-or-leave-it offer.

In Australia, pattern bargaining is specifically outlawed under the WorkChoices legislation. This law will affect the building industry in particular and is arguably targeted at the CFMEU and other building unions that were the subject of the Cole Royal Commission.


* Marshall, Robert, and Antonio Merlo. 1996. Pattern bargaining. [ Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Research Department Staff Report] "220".

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