The term ‘collective bargaining’ was invented by Beatrice Webb, and propagated by the Webbs, to describe the process of agreeing terms and conditions of employment through representatives of employers — possibly their associations, probably managers — and representatives of the employees — probably their unions. It was seen by them as primarily a substitute for the employer bargaining singly with each employee and establishing individual contracts of employment. Collective agreements are not substitutes for individual contracts. What is agreed collectively is implied, or inserted, into each employee’s contract. From the employee’s point of view it helps to mitigate the uneven balance in bargaining power between an employer and an individual employee. It follows from the above that collective bargaining is essentially a representative process — in which representatives of employers reach agreements, or compromises, with the representatives of employees.
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