The recent National Hockey League (NHL) lockout has ended and a deal has been reached, giving fans a chance to see some action, and giving business owners a chance to learn some important lessons regarding labor disputes.

1.  Don’t bargain in the media

Why?  Firstly, you cannot control how the media will portray you.  Trying your case so to speak in the “court of public opinion” is generally not a good idea.  Secondly, bargaining in the media only has the effect of causing the parties to become entrenched in their position which in turn may result in more serious reactions which, in the instant case resulted in the NHL engaging early on in a lockout.

Bottom line:  Airing the parties’ laundry in public is likely to have a negative impact not only on the parties involved but on fans, customers, and suppliers as well. Both parties should weigh the costs, both economic and otherwise, before resorting to such tactics.

2.   Keep the dialogue going.

Why?  It is only through continuing dialogue that can lead to a resolution and agreement.  No communication = no negotiations = no resolution.

3Do a cost-benefit analysis.

Why?  Each party will have the opportunity to decide – what’s dispensable and what’s worth continuing to argue about. If nothing else, it allows for the possibility of more give and take during the course of the negotiations and allows employers to determine which of the terms being negotiated are the most cost effective to pursue in the bargaining process.

4.  Retain an attorney skilled in labor disputes

Why?  An experienced attorney can be very effective in advising the company as to the “do’s” and “don’ts” related to the collective bargaining process. A labor attorney may also recommend and encourage the use of an experienced mediator to guide the discussions between the parties, which, as occurred in this case, ended in a settlement.

Labor disputes are costly, time-consuming, and can negatively impact all parties involved, including getting you to lose focus on what is most important; namely, further growing your business.  Hopefully, heeding the above suggestions can lessen any such impact on your company’s business.

If you have any questions relative to your labor contracts or issues, contact any attorney at Royal LLP at (413) 586-2288.

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