What Does a Labor Relations Manager Do?

labor-relations-managerHuman resources professionals interested in the rights of union workers and collective bargaining strategies may be interested in a labor relations manager job. Labor relations managers, also called labor relations negotiators, meet with company management on behalf of workers to negotiate contracts, wages, employee grievances and company policy.

Companies of all sizes who employ union workers also hire labor relations managers to act as a liaison between workers and managers. In addition to representing employee interests in contract negotiations, labor relations managers interpret management proposals for union representatives elected by the members of a worker’s union.

Ideal Labor Relations Manager Candidate

Labor relations managers must be skilled in understanding and explaining labor contracts, resolving disputes and negotiating wages and policies. Negotiations between labor and management can sometimes become contentious, and part of a labor relations manager’s job description is to diffuse tense situations. This objective isn’t always possible, so a labor relations manager must have a high level of professionalism and be comfortable working under stress.

The ideal candidate for a labor relations management position has a calm temperament and high level of empathy for both sides of the discussion. Since the job involves a great deal of paperwork, excellent organizational skills are a must, as are oral and written communication skills. Labor relations managers must have a firm understanding of pension funds, healthcare policies and union politics.

What are a Labor Relation Manager’s Duties?

A labor relations manager’s job is closely related to that of a human resources specialist. While a human resources specialist works with employees as they join a firm, a labor relations manager works with employees already hired by a firm. The main difference between the two positions is that a labor relations manager specializes in union contracts and management policy while a human resources specialist focuses on employee needs, strengths and experience.

A typical day for a labor relations manager includes working directly with management on finalizing contracts, resolving grievances and ironing out employee disciplinary policies. Labor relations managers develop proposals for rules regarding collective bargaining between labor unions and management, and they do their due diligence to make sure grievances are legitimate before bringing them to management’s attention. They also work on behalf of management to improve relations with union workers.

What are a Labor Relation Manager’s Employment and Salary Prospects?

The field of human resources is growing overall, but job prospects for labor relations managers are expected to decline over the next decade, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The reason for the decrease in opportunities is a decline in a unionized workforce. However, labor relations managers with a strong background in human resources can expect average job growth as companies replace these workers as they retire or move to other careers.

Labor relations managers earned a median annual salary of $54,660 in 2012, with half of all positions paying more than this amount. The top 10 percent of earners made around $100,000 per year or more, while the lowest 10 percent earned $17,690 or less. Experience and relevant skills were a determining factor in potential earnings.

People with a strong belief in workers’ rights and fair wages can be effective labor relations specialists. Negotiating contracts and worker disagreements is the general job description of a labor relations manager.