Monday, 6 June 2011

Industrial Relations Expert Calls on Cable to be more Creative in approach to Unions

Andy Cook, an industrial and employee relations advisor has called for the Government to rethink its threats to legislate against unions.

“It smacks of a knee-jerk reaction to something the unions have been talking about for some time. To say to unions “If you go on strike, we will punish you with legislation” seems to really throw down the gauntlet to Public Sector Unions who are looking for an excuse to co-ordinate mass action across the public sector. The danger here is the Government has raised this issue in a way that may influence the silent majority into action.

“There is no question that strikes actioned by a minority of the workforce or a minority of the union members within that workforce can be daft as it allows a small number of people to cause a disproportionate amount of disruption; but Industrial Relations issues are wider than the law. You can use the law to prevent a strike, but there is still an issue between employees and employer that needs resolving. The only winners from anything relating to the law tend to be lawyers.

“The Government faces a series of challenges as we move through the next few months with a day of industrial action scheduled for 30th June and then further, perhaps wider action in the autumn. The action in the autumn has the potential to be the most serious as the issue is Public Sector Pensions. Pensions are the single common subject across the Public Sector and the unions know that it’s the one thing that can mobilise action across all the unions; a situation that individual union leaders have been calling for since the change of Government.

“At the centre of this is the battle for the hearts and minds of public sector workers. Without their support, the unions cannot go on strike, so the key is for Government to focus on winning hearts and minds and engage with people, not make threats to change legislation.”

Andy Cook is in the rare position of having previously worked as a union officer prior to a career as an HR and Employee Relations Director with the British Library, Transport for London and Gate Gourmet. Andy is a regular and experienced media commentator on all employee and industrial relations issues in the trade and national print, online and broadcast media.

Andy is now CEO of Marshall-James, the UK’s only specialist firm of dedicated employee and industrial relations advisors. The company works in partnership with Boards, CEOs and senior HR leaders providing advice on employee relations strategy and implementation for some of the largest public and FTSE private sector organisations in both unionised and non-unionised environments.

(EDITOR: Or are the silent majority perhaps a tiny bit envious of what they see as the perks enjoyed by Public Sector Unions? For example, how many readers of That's Business get to take off Maundy Thursday or get an extra holiday on the Queen's Birthday as Civil Servants do?)

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