Advertisement
Employment

Bosses urged to engage more with unions amid rise in strike action

More than half of the 1,000 bosses and senior HR professionals surveyed by the CIPD agreed the UK is entering a new, more unstable period of employment relations.

Employers have been told they should start engaging more with unions amid a rise in industrial disputes and a growing threat of strike action.

While most employers see unions as providing essential protection for employees from bad management, failing to recognise or engage with them will increasingly become a bad strategy for bosses who want to avoid walkouts, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has found. 

Post Office workers are set to stage further 24-hour strikes this week demanding higher pay, while drivers at eight train companies on Monday voted to strike. 

More than half of the 1,000 bosses and senior HR professionals surveyed by the CIPD agreed the UK is entering a new, more unstable period of employment relations.

Competition for workers amid a shortage of labour, combined with a cost of living crisis and falling wages, is fuelling industrial action across the UK this summer, with disputes at their highest point in five years.

The Trade Unions Congress (TUC) logged at least 300 disputes in 12 months to April 2022. Union bosses have warned they could coordinate industrial action to grind the country to a halt in a national strike if employers don’t get around the negotiating table.

Advertisement
Advertisement

This research is “a warning that when you are faced with union requests for recognition, it’s better to engage and try and work with your workforce,” says CIPD employee relations adviser Rachel Suff, who worked on the research. 

“Our research shows that a lot of employers do engage with unions… but that doesn’t mean there is a constructive working partnership across the board.”

“The more you can consult (with employee representatives) the more likely you are to be able to avoid industrial action,” she continued. 

Generally, the survey found employers spoke positively about the climate in their workplaces, with almost nine in 10 describing the relationship between managers and employees as “good”.

But faced with inflation squeezing both the wages of employees and the overheads of companies, four in 10 agreed employers can expect to face increasing levels of industrial action over the next year. 

Coupled with rising inflation, the UK is facing the tightest labour market in 48 years, meaning that there’s “a lot of competition for labour and that can increase bargaining power for working people and the unions representing them.”

Suff emphasises, however, that despite the increasing frequency of industrial action, workers still only go on strike when there are no other ways forward. 

“We did a lot of interviews with trade unions for this research, and what really came across is that they don’t want to take strike action… It means their members lose pay and so on, it really is a last resort.”

In response to the recent three days of rail strikes by members of RMT union, transport secretary Grant Shapps has suggested the government could repeal a legal ban on agency staff filling in for striking workers.

“The country must not continue to be held to ransom,” he told The Telegraph. 

Advertisement

Every copy counts this Winter

Your local vendor is at the sharp end of the cost-of-living crisis this Winter. Prices of energy and food are rising rapidly. As is the cost of rent. All at their highest rate in 40 years. Vendors are amongst the most vulnerable people affected. Support our vendors to earn as much as they can and give them a fighting chance this Winter.

Recommended for you

Read All
Thousands of ambulance staff and nurses strike over pay and conditions
NHS crisis

Thousands of ambulance staff and nurses strike over pay and conditions

Britain on strike: The biggest walkout in a decade in pictures
Employment

Britain on strike: The biggest walkout in a decade in pictures

February 1 strikes: Who is on strike this Wednesday and where are protests taking place?
Strike action

February 1 strikes: Who is on strike this Wednesday and where are protests taking place?

Will there be a general strike in 2023?
Industrial action

Will there be a general strike in 2023?

Most Popular

Read All
Lauren Layfield: 'Normal men, innocent men' and me
1.

Lauren Layfield: 'Normal men, innocent men' and me

Here's when people will get the next cost of living payment in 2023
2.

Here's when people will get the next cost of living payment in 2023

Where to find grants for furniture and carpets in 2023
3.

Where to find grants for furniture and carpets in 2023

Scotland aims to cut car use by creating '20-minute neighbourhoods' in net zero push
4.

Scotland aims to cut car use by creating '20-minute neighbourhoods' in net zero push