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The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association Newsletter. As of April 2020 Uplink ALPA is a 6-monthly publication.

Bargaining courses prepare members for negotiations

Air Nelson pilot and Council Administrative Head Tony McKevitt has been part of the NZALPA pilot negotiation team since 1998 after completing a negotiation course with NZALPA’s Legal Advocate Adam Nicholson. McKevitt has been involved in every collective agreement negotiation with Air Nelson ever since.

In October this year, along with other Air Nelson and Mount Cook pilots, McKevitt looked to refresh his skills by completing NZALPA’s Interest-based Bargaining Course.  This is based on the learnings gained by NZALPA through the Harvard Program on Negotiation and approved by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. The course was presented once again by Nicholson.

Despite his previous experience, McKevitt found the course useful and acknowledges the helpful shift away from positional bargaining to interest-based negotiation.

“Interest-based bargaining recognises the need to sustain an ongoing relationship between employer and employee, and works on reaching a satisfactory settlement that doesn’t mean parties focus on winning at all costs,” McKevitt says.

“Positional bargaining had its time and place, but currently I would advocate that interest-based solutions are the way forward.”

McKevitt has been interested in bargaining since his time in the United Kingdom working in the maritime industry. He went on to complete a cadetship and joining the Merchant Navy and Airline Officers’ Association (MNAOA (later National Union of Marine, Aviation and Shipping Transport Officers (NUMAST)) and now Nautilus UK, with aviation members then joining British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) in 1990).

It was in the late 1980s that McKevitt become involved with negotiation and it really captured his attention.

“At that stage I had no formal training, but it was an area of interest and I picked up a lot from my colleagues,” he says.

When he returned to his homeland of New Zealand, he joined NZALPA in 1992 when he switched to the aviation industry.

“It was partly out of habit as belonging to a union was the done thing,” McKevitt says.

“But ultimately, I also agree with the fundamental philosophy of a union – that we’re part of a collective that supports our fellow colleagues.”

He adds that he has taken huge learnings away from his training this year.

“Not only did the course teach me the need to build ongoing relationships, but it showed me how to identify the conclusion of bargaining – I’d always struggled with knowing when we’ve got there, and now I believe the end is not when we have fought for every interest, but when we collectively believe, as a pilot bargaining team, that we have got the best deal we will achieve.

“Previous positional bargaining has been about ‘you give me this and I’ll give you that’, but this course and way of negotiating focuses on coming to a deal that best meets the needs of both parties.”

He suggests all members of NZALPA take up the opportunity to complete the course.

“Everyone interested in their own future, and that of their colleagues, should do this course; there’s always space for better bargaining skills and it can be used for more than employment bargaining.”

NZALPA will soon be releasing 2018 dates for its next round of interest-based bargaining courses, which are open to all NZALPA members.

NZALPA’s General Manager Dawn Handforth is a big supporter of interest-based negotiations, and attended Harvard’s Program on Negotiation back in 2012.

“Learning interest-based bargaining skills allows negotiators to separate the people from the problem and make it possible to have an amicable agreement,” Handforth says.

“On these courses, people learn to expand the pie to benefit all parties rather than fighting over who gets what slice of a fixed pie, which frequently leaves value on the table. Issues are decided on their merits, rather than via a haggling process.”

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