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Collective bargaining is always characterized by competition between the parties for limited resources. Achieving productive public sector labor-management negotiations can be especially challenging when a troubled economy, such as the present one, limits those resources in an extraordinary way.

 However, it is possible for the bargaining parties to break the historic contentiousness and realize results--results where both sides think that their respective goals and objectives have been met and improved, given the constraints of bargaining--through the efforts of collaborative bargaining methods and/or the use of labor-management committees (LMC).

 Management generally seeks to reduce the growth in expenditures and the union tries to enhance the economic well being of its members--while citizens, who expect the same or an improved level of services, are frequently unwilling to support higher taxes.

 In difficult fiscal times, successful bargaining means both sides may need to look beyond typical "bread and butter" economic bargaining issues to non-economic issues that have resonance with a jurisdiction’s employees and other stakeholders. Similarly, this may be the time for labor and management to work in a more collaborative manner to tackle longstanding concerns that both sides acknowledge are problematic.

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