Acas risks damaging its long-standing reputation in resolving workplace disputes unless it can quickly settle a row over pay, according to a leading industrial relations specialist.
Members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) working at the conciliation service voted convincingly to hold a series of strikes in response to management’s failure to make a pay offer for 2007.
The PCS represents 635 people working at Acas in a range of jobs, from admin support to helpline staff. The union said it planned to start the action on 17 March.
Former HR director Andy Cook, now heading up consultancy Marshall-James HR, said it would be difficult for employers to have faith in an organisation that couldn’t practice what it preached. “This row may further discredit the reputation and effectiveness of Acas, particularly in dispute resolution in this country,” he said.
“Although on the surface it’s another symptom of the wider public sector pay issue, the long-term damage it does to Acas’s reputation as a mediating body and an authority figure is significant,” Cook said.
He added that there had been some recent high-profile disputes where unions and companies had preferred to look elsewhere for help in reaching an agreement.
PCS national officer Dave Cliff said day-to-day disruption at the organisation would be inevitable, with calls to the helpline going unanswered.
“Our members have been forced into the situation, as they have been waiting for seven months for a pay offer,” he told Personnel Today.
An Acas spokeswoman insisted that it was “business as usual” and that the organisation was looking to move forward in talks with the union.