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Progress report: Labour/Management e-negotiation simulation
March 2003 - December 2003



E. Thiessen, ICAN Systems Inc.; A. Soberg, Trinity Western University

Key researchers:  

T. Bui, University of Hawaii; J. Etezadi, Concordia University; S. Koszegi, University of Vienna; G. Kersten, University of Ottawa; H. Lai , National Sun Yat-sen University; M. Schoop, RWTH; R. Vetschera, University of Vienna; Y. Yuan, McMaster University


K. P. Law, Concordia University; A. Stewart, N. Arney , J. Neufeld, C. Boynton, Trinity Western University

Project 5 began in March 2003. The focus of this project is to study the potential impact of electronic negotiation systems (ENSs) on the process and the outcomes of union-management negotiations. One of the variables we will study is the degree of analytical support provided by the ENS. To fulfill this requirement, we have selected three ENSs for a series of simulations and experiments, SmartSettle (with analytical support), Inspire (with analytical support), and WebNS (without analytical support). The project will also study the effects of negotiator's characteristics (e.g., power, education, gender, and approach to problem solving) on the negotiated outcomes when using ENSs.

Data for this project will be gathered by using the selected ENS in each of the following three union-management negotiation settings:

  • Simulations using university students participating in classroom settings (an international competition will be established).
  • Simulations using members of unions and management teams.
  • Real-life cases using members of union and management teams.

E-negotiation tournament

The primary activities of this project were the preparation for, and the conduct of, an e-negotiation tournament. The tournament preparation required the following specific activities: :

  • A practice case was developed to test the participating systems and for user training purposes.
  • A negotiation case was developed and tested. The case involves a situation where a teachers' union and a School Board need to negotiate 7 outstanding issues to finalize a collective agreement. The case has three components: general background (public) information, which all participants were able to see; confidential information for the union, which included direction on the preferences of the union; and confidential information for the management team, which included direction on the preferences of the management. The case confidential information is only available to the research team and the evaluators.
  • A training manual was developed for use by all of the participants. This manual gives an introduction to negotiations and union-management collective bargaining. It also gives a brief introduction to electronic negotiations and introduces the tournament participants to the outline of the tournament.
  • A pre-negotiation questionnaire was designed to gather demographic information on the participants and to identify the participants' perceptions of their negotiating style and any concerns they might have prior to the negotiations.
  • A post-negotiation questionnaire was designed to gather information on the experience of the participants throughout the negotiations.

ENSs participating in the tournament:

Organization of the tournament involved:

  • The design and launch of comprehensive website www.enegotiation.org in cooperation with ICODR and ICAN Systems Inc. The purpose of this site is providing information about the tournament, encourage visitors to participate in a competition, and to manage the competitions.
  • The selection and assessment of the participating ENSs. The number of ENSs used in the November competition was increased from three as initially planned to six systems in the November competion. Five systems were provided by the members of the E-negotiation Program (see Project 3). A commercial systems MeetingOne system, was also a participant in the tournament. Three systems, i.e., MeetingOne , SimpleNS and WebNS provide the communication platform and support for the organization and structuring of the process. In addition to the above, three systems, i.e., Inspire, SmartSettle and Negoisst, provide analytical support.
  • In the November 2003 competition, 262 students from 17 countries participated in 64 negotiations.

Plan 2004

  • An enhanced research design is being developed that incorporates the data from the first competition and will give direction to future competitions in 2004. The results of the data collected from the e-negotiation competitions conducted in November 2003 and January/February 2004 will be compiled and analyzed; several publications and presentations will be developed.
  • We plan to collaborate with other ENS researchers in enhancing the research design based on the pilot events held in November 2003 and January 2004. We will then further develop and promote a recurring competition that will continue to yield valuable research data. A specific goal is to determine how to measure the potential benefits of analytical support and then to learn how significant those benefits might be. We will encourage the participation of a wide range of different ENSs in order to measure the differences in effectiveness with different approaches. We expect the quality and value of collected data to improve as the event becomes larger and eventually evolves toward a more realistic representation of real-life collective bargaining negotiations and in business negotiations in general.

Working papers:

Soberg, A., "The impact of culture on styles of negotiation when using an ENS."

Soberg, A., "The change in negotiation style when using an ENS."

Soberg, A. and E. Thiessen, "The potential for using an ENS in collective bargaining"

Soberg, A. “How different cultures view the roles of union and management in collective bargaining.”


The Center for Information Technology and Dispute Resolution
http://www.odr.info/, located at the University of Massachusetts, hosts the ICODR (International Competition for Dispute Resolution) http://www.odr.info/icodr.php , an annual competition for law schools that was held at Cyberweek http://www.odr.info/cyberweek.php in 2001 and 2002. They co-sponsored the two e-negotiation competitions that were part of Project 5.

http://www.meetingone.com provides a complete range of on-demand Web conferencing services. MeetingOne was one of the 6 e-negotiation systems used in the competition. The organization subsidized the cost of the use of their system and any long distance phone charges incurred in preparation for and during the competition.

Planned Events

  • A second competition is being held in January 2004 to gather further data on the use of ENS in Labour-Management negotiations.
  • In the fall of 2004 a professional competition is being planned; this will involve the use of ENS by professional union and management negotiators in a simulated collective bargaining exercise.



April 12, 2004