The key to any negotiation, whether it be on the political front or in a labour dispute, is coming up with a solution that allows both sides to claim victory.
Such is the case with the modified bargaining process that both Abitibi-Consolidated and the Communication, Energy and Papermakers union have embraced—and which has prompted the resumption of contract talks that have been all but non-existent during the first 14 weeks of the strike.
Although details of the process weren’t released, the gist of it is that negotiations on local issues and contract language are being done on a mill-by-mill basis while the monetary package (such as wages and benefits) will be hashed out at the main table next month in Montreal.
The strike started in June because the company had wanted all negotiations to be conducted on a mill by mill basis while the union had demanded everything be done at one main table. So while neither side “won” outright, last week’s compromise was enough to get them back to the table.
Of course, there’s a long way to go before anyone can start thinking the strike is over. In fact, there’s some question whether all the local issues at the various mills can be resolved before main table talks are scheduled to begin Oct. 6.
But at least both sides are talking, and in a strike that has dragged on for so long this summer without much movement or developments, that in itself certainly is encouraging news.