October 6, 2015


How we bargain our National Agreement is as important as what we bargain. We use an interest-based problem-solving approach. This is a collaborative approach to solving problems that strives to meet the most critical needs of all parties. It also aims to preserve—and improve—workplace relationships and partnership. It’s not about “giving in,” but rather is a process to negotiate differences amicably and reach results that will be lasting and durable.

Traditional, adversarial bargaining usually begins with each side staking out its position. In contrast, interest-based bargaining begins with all parties discussing what their needs are. Both parties work on an issue together, explore options and find a solution that meets the key interests. That sense of shared ownership smoothes the way for successfully implementing the agreement. This approach also opens the door to collaborative problem solving—as opposed to competition or compromise—and leads to creative, mutually beneficial solutions.

Interest-based bargaining works best when both sides share information, focus on key issues, listen actively, are open to different options and trust one another. We’ve found that this approach addresses the needs of union members and helps the organization improve performance—which ultimately benefits our health plan members and the communities we serve.

The 2012 National Agreement was negotiated by a Common Issues Committee of 140 workers, managers and physicians using interest-based bargaining. The agreement protects current benefits, provides measures to control costs and strengthens unit-based teams. In a groundbreaking move, it also provides incentives that reward the improvement of employee health as measured by progress against a set of key benchmarks, with the goal of creating the healthiest workforce in the health care industry. Notably, rather than rewarding or punishing individuals, the incentives are for the collective improvement of employee health.

Click here for details on the 2012 National Agreement.