4 golden rules for achieving a collective bargaining agreement

When we are asked to get involved in protection insurances for employees, the key word is “social dialogue”. Even if a collective agreement at company level is not necessarily an obligation, the Gerep teams have become specialised in obtaining support from staff and feel it is their duty to do so. Guy Jullien, a partner at Gerep explains that “the negotiations for a group protection insurance plan are an ideal opportunity to calm industrial relations and enhance social dialogue within the company”. Provided we are seen by all and remain as outside consultants. Here are some tips for achieving this.

4 golden rules for achieving a collective bargaining agreement

1- Make sure to adopt a teaching approach

This is essential in demonstrating our credibility as experts! In order to generate constructive debate, we have to create an interest in the subject and lead the parties to acquiring the necessary skills. Guy Jullien gives more detail, saying that “generally we propose setting up a special committee and we give them the keys to understanding the issues involved in protection and healthcare covers, so we can develop solutions together”.

2- Remain neutral but stay at the helm

In industrial relations negotiations the broker must make sure he is seen as an independent expert…even if he has been chosen by management. Guy Jullien reminds us that, “above all, we must stay out of any discussions that might pollute the negotiations. We have to defend the interests of both parties. It is this tripartite configuration that avoids confrontation. Nevertheless, staying neutral does not stop us giving our opinion and leading the dialogue so as to find solutions that fit the parameters and budget decided on beforehand with management.”

3- Tell the truth

Do not cheat, do not lie, do not tell half truths: these are the absolute rules for avoiding conflict in a long-term relationship. Sometimes, though, it is not all that easy. What solution do you offer a client who finds that their health insurance (Mutuelle) is too expensive? Guy Jullien adds that “medical expenses are continually on the increase and the Social Security system has a tendency to push the impact of certain expenses onto the supplementary healthcare insurers. In this situation it is a total denial of reality to promise reductions in premium but keep the same benefits”.

4- Offer solutions that are customised and meet a consensus

Being competent is the least one can expect from an expert. That competence comes to the fore when it is necessary to curb policy cover in order to bring rising premium costs under control. “Reducing cover is taboo”, confirms Guy Jullien. “Our role as experts is to look at those cover items that can be altered without prejudicing staff members. For example: cover for visits to a specialist. If reducing from €70 to €60 the amount on which the reimbursement is calculated will only affect 10% of staff then that is an option worth considering. Another example is the widow’s pension: this is a benefit that weighs heavily on premiums but is not necessarily a priority for employees where most spouses go out to work.

These are the four conditions that give an outside expert the credibility and legitimacy needed to be seen as a “facilitator” of social dialogue within the company.  This is a complicated yet essential role that even the State has the greatest difficulty in playing at a national level. For proof of that, just take a look at the recent breakdown in negotiations between management and the unions over…social dialogue.

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