Unions and employers must form more equal partnerships

An imbalance of power between unions and employers when negotiating partnership deals will worsen industrial relations, a study by think-tank the Policy Studies Institute has warned. The study found that in organisations where unions are either too weak or too strong, relations with staff are worse than where there is no union presence. Companies which […]

An imbalance of power between unions and employers when negotiating partnership deals will worsen industrial relations, a study by think-tank the Policy Studies Institute has warned.

The study found that in organisations where unions are either too weak or too strong, relations with staff are worse than where there is no union presence. Companies which discourage union membership among staff were found to have poor industrial relations.

The report comes as many employers rush to make voluntary agreements before legislation on compulsory union recognition comes into force next year.

Only one firm in 10 was found to be actively encouraging staff to join unions, and most managers were indifferent.

David Yeandle, head of employment affairs at the Engineering Employers’ Federation, said employers must adopt a long-term strategy which treats partnership with unions as a way of improving performance. `It is like a marriage. Once the honeymoon period is over, the real work begins,’ he said.

Alex Bryson, author of the report, said the new law on statutory union recognition could worsen the industrial relations climate in the UK. `If it merely installs weak unions, and recognition on paper, it will do nothing for management-worker relations. Employers must view the legislation as an opportunity rather than a threat.’

A spokeswoman for the TUC said only anti-union employers would try to block partnership agreements.

John Robinson writes for Personnel Today magazine