The relationship between labor and management is one of the most critical, and often one of the most acrimonious, in business. Labor, often represented by collective bargaining agreements, wants the best benefits and wages for its constituents; management wants to keep costs down, and, in most organizations, labor is one of the highest cost items. Yet these seeming adversaries are also mutually dependent upon one another. Labor requires the planning and coordination that management provides, and management requires the physical effort that labor provides. As a result, contract negotiations, in which both sides try to win the best possible outcome for their own interests, can be difficult. Many contracts are negotiated without job actions taking place, but occasionally, contract negotiations break down. This research examines what happens when such breakdowns occur, and looks at the concept of impasse and its ramifications as well as the job actions (strike and lockout) that may result.
An impasse arises when the parties involved in negotiations are no longer able to make progress toward resolving their conflict. Generally, such impasses are the result of intractable positions from which one side is unwilling to back down. Without the willingness and ability to negotiate in good faith, and without the willingness on both sides to make concessions, negotiations are likely to reach a point where further discussion between the two parties directly is futile. It is at this point that an impasse is declared.
Impasses can come about from a variety of factors: economic characteristics, structural characteristics, organizational characteristics, interpersonal factors, personal factors, the nature of the issues, and the bargaining behavior of the parties (Kochan & Katz 269).
Economic characteristics can come about from either of the two parties. For example, an employer who has encountered difficult financial times may find i...