Collective Agreement

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Collective Agreement


(1) In the USSR an agreement between an enterprise as represented by its administration and the collective of workers as represented by the factory trade union committee which obliges both parties to fulfill the production plan, improve the organization of production and labor, introduce new technology and raise labor productivity, develop socialist competition, and improve the housing conditions and the cultural and welfare services for production and clerical workers. The collective agreement contains basic provisions on work and wages as established by existing legislation, and it deals with working hours, break periods, remuneration, and other conditions which are worked out by the administration and the factory trade union committee.

The collective agreement is signed yearly before March in industry, construction, commerce, agriculture and forestry, and transportation and communications and in geological prospecting and topographic and geodesic organizations, public-catering establishments, and domestic public services. In the collective agreement are provisions that establish standards applying the existing labor legislation to the given enterprise: for example, indexes and conditions for bonuses, the procedure for payment of the intercategory difference for work requiring various qualifications, and additional incentives for labor achievements. The Basic Principles of Labor Legislation of 1970 are broadly worded, so that legal questions arising in practice but not regulated in any precise manner by legislation can be settled in the collective agreement; these questions include, in particular, working hours and break periods, remuneration and material incentives, and factory health and safety inspections. Fulfillment of the collective agreement is reviewed once a year, and the results are discussed at shift and workshop meetings and later at the general factory meetings (conferences) of production and office workers of the given enterprise.


(2) In capitalist countries an agreement between the representatives of the employers and the workers on labor conditions, wages, and the rights of the workers’ organizations in the enterprises. Collective agreements first appeared in Great Britain in the mid-19th century. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the practice of signing collective agreements also became widespread in other European countries and later in North America. For a long time bourgeois legislation did not recognize the legal force of the provisions of collective agreements and did not guarantee legal protection to the workers covered by these instruments. The laws on binding force of collective agreements were promulgated mainly after World War I.

When signed, collective agreements limit the individual powers of the enterprise owner in many areas and restrict the arbitrary rule of the capitalists over individual production and office workers. The laws of most countries recognize the provisions of collective agreements on labor conditions and wages as obligatory minimal norms that may change in individual labor agreements only in favor of the employee. The observance of conditions stipulated in the collective agreement may be enforced through legal action. In the USA, France, Great Britain, Austria, and Sweden the collective agreement in force in an enterprise is extended to all workers, including workers who are not members of trade unions. In the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, Norway, and Denmark the provisions of the collective agreements can be restricted to members of the union that signed the agreement; for nonmembers, less favorable conditions of work and lower wages may be established. Collective agreements are signed for the entire sector of industry or for a given locality, area, or shop.

In all capitalist states, owners of enterprises strive to avoid signing collective agreements; in many American, Japanese, and Western European firms the capitalists refuse to engage in collective bargaining. Although bourgeois and reformist ideologists present collective agreements as an instrument of class peace and cooperation, in reality the collective agreements are the tools and means of class struggle; negotiations are accompanied by sharp confrontations, mass strikes, and lockouts. The bourgeoisie strives to exploit the collective agreements to suppress the strike movement, seeking to include no-strike clauses in many agreements. Even in absence of such provisions the bourgeois courts usually rule that the signing of a collective agreement in itself deprives the workers of the right to strike for as long as the collective agreement is in force.

In the 1960’s progressive unions in the bourgeois countries intensified their fight to extend the issues included in the collective agreements, achieving some success. In addition to the traditional provisions on pay and on the duration and arrangement of working hours, many collective agreements began to regulate the procedures of hiring, transfer, and layoffs; the length of vacations; the conditions of payment of pensions and benefits by the enterprises; the rights of the organizations representing workers; and grievance procedures. The inclusion of these conditions in the collective agreement is especially important because in several countries many aspects of labor relations are not regulated at all by legislation; for example, in the USA the laws make no provision for the right to vacation, disability benefits, or pregnancy and maternity benefits, and in Great Britain the laws do not provide for the right to vacation, and do not limit the working hours of adult males. Existing laws establish an extremely low level of guarantees, which the workers are seeking to raise through collective agreements.

Collective agreements have a special significance under the conditions of the scientific and technological revolution. Unions use agreements to protect workers from many negative consequences of the capitalist streamlining of production. Progressive unions fight for the right of workers to participate in the settlement of important production and social problems. Negotiations include demands to limit layoffs, pay additional compensation to workers who are laid off, guarantee the wage rates, and retrain workers for a new profession at company expense. The entrepreneurs counter by trying to use the collective agreements to increase the intensity of labor (productivity contracts), introduce the latest speed-up systems, suppress the class struggle with the help of profit-sharing and stock-purchase plans, and consolidate their own prerogatives. The signing of such contracts is encouraged in every possible way by the bourgeois state. Influential bourgeois circles of many countries try to limit the right of the workers to sign collective agreements under the pretext that this right, associated with the right to strike, hinders scientific and technological progress; they propose replacing collective bargaining with compulsory state regulation. The workers’ organizations of all countries defend the right to collective agreements; to them it is an acquired right that they will never surrender and an effective means of fighting for the interests of the working class.


Khoziaistvennaia reforma i trudovoe pravo. Moscow, 1970. Pages 142–57.
Kiselev, I. Ia. Sovremennyi kapitalizm i trudovoe zakonodatel’stvo. Moscow, 1971.
Usenin, V. I. Sotsial’noepartnerstvo Hi klassovaia bor’ba. Moscow, 1968.


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