A brief review of press reports about the successful mediation of a 1996 conflict between 'Swissair vs. The Pilot's Union' reveals many lessons learned for more contemporary disputes between management and labor in other contexts. Certainly, a different generation is now in charge and and the challenges they face are new and varied. But the essential components of the conflict remain the same, reflecting a certain law of nature. And this example should remind representatives of both management and labor today that it's well worth considering very carefully which strategy you take to the negotiating table.
This unforgettable experience taught all the parties in an exemplary fashion:
- what the principles of the Harvard Method can achieve when applied professionally, and
- that, certainly in the case of disputes between management and labor, mediation is an alternative to power struggles and legal wrangling, and should be considered seriously.
Perhaps due to the immense time pressure and psychological strain on both the conflicting parties, not to mention the fact that negotiations had already repeatedly collapsed, the parties involved were open to try out what at that time were seen as new methods of dispute resolution. The result was so gratifying that the conflicting parties were so relieved at the success of their efforts that they not only made no effort to hinder a publication of their story, but even explicitly requested a sharing of the news.
Even in professionally conducted negotiations, conflict situations will always arise which require the presence of a 'third party', which could be a court, an arbitrator or a mediator. Anyone basing their negotiation on the Harvard Method – even when the opponent does no not share that experience and instead revels in Win/Lose dynamics – will greatly increase the odds for reaching an agreement with that satisfies all sides, with no need to call for external help.
Relevant publication: "Der Bund, Swiss Daily Newspaper. (English trans: The Union)"