M.O.R.E. – Negotiations and the Australian & International Pilots Association

An August article in Aviation Online Magazine caught our eye with this headline – “Qantas Airline Pilots Negotiate Job Security Not Pay Increase”.  It concerns bargaining between the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) and Australia’s largest airline.  Included in the article is a quote from the AIPA negotiations spokesperson that states that the pilots’ leading issues are “job protection, career progression, and off-shoring of jobs”.  Not money.

First, it is an interesting matter that the AIPA negotiator took these issues public.  That can work for them or against them.  On one hand, the list makes clear what the AIPA wants, which is a plus.  On the other hand, this list implicitly makes some concessions.  It implies, “we don’t want more money, we don’t want shorter hours…”  But since the statement was made to the public, it is not an exchange or trade of terms (not a “Principled Concession”™).  Qantas would be reasonably advised to not make increased wages any part of the conversation, and in fact, to deny that they were even considering it.  They can take the position, “Well, it’s a good thing you didn’t want money, because there is none to be had.”  And they can make that argument whether it is true or not.  If AIPA had kept silent, then the potential to go into the negotiation asking for money, but appearing to settle or compromise for job security would still exist.  That strategy is now gone.  Time will tell if the approach they took was a good one.  When we advise our clients, we have a discussion of the possible outcomes of taking a position before it is taken.  Then, as long as the choice is a conscious one which includes consideration of the potential outcomes, many choices can be acceptable.  Under the same logic explained above, the choice AIPA made could have been strategic.  Maybe they are asking for job security, but will settle for money.  It is impossible to tell from outside the negotiation.

Second, the AIPA statement is a good example of how knowing the other side’s motivations, objectives, and requirements can be important in a negotiation.  One of K&R’s Six Principles of Negotiation™ is “Get M.O.R.E. – Preparation is Key to a Winning Negotiation.”  The acronym stands for Motivations, Objectives, Requirements, (will give you the) Edge.  AIPA’s statement gives a clear indication of their motivations and objectives.  Requirements, which are the steps taken to achieve objectives, can take many forms, and can be heavily negotiated.  For example, you could address job progression through seniority, testing, performance on key metrics, or other methods.  Not all will have the same result, and they will be seen in different ways by the different sides.  When you think about leverage, remember to think about it from both sides, not just your own.

Third, in your negotiations, remember to look at what is being negotiated not just from your point of view, but circle around and look at it from the point of view of the other party.  Does job protection mean that pilots cannot be laid off?  To a pilot, it means continued work, reduced stress from worries about losing income, and the ability (for example) to send the pilot’s children to college.  To the airline, it means reduced ability to exchange higher-paid pilots for lower-paid ones, less flexibility to reduce staffing costs in a bad economy, and improved predictability (for good or bad) of future expense.  These views are different, and may not conflict, depending on how events play out.  The economy makes a big recovery and air travel is up?  The airline does not have to worry about layoffs they cannot make.

The motivations, objectives, and requirements of the people you negotiate with are important things to know when you sit across the negotiating table.  Try to understand them.   (td)

Got a question? Email a K&R negotiator directly at ask@negotiators.com.