Robert Ingram: How I made a difference

We are an IT consultancy and outsourcing company. People join us through both recruitment and outsourcing deals. For us it is very important to have an effective works council and good relationships with our trade union, and that’s particularly important for employees who join us through outsourcing deals.

It can be very unsettling. People joined one organisation which then decided to outsource their work, so they can feel nervous and concerned about their future. At this time, they may need the reassurance given by having a good representative to look after them in discussions with both their own company and the one they are going to join.

We have found over the years that having an effective works council and very open discussions with trade unions at these times really helps the process go much more smoothly. It reassures the employees involved that their interests are being properly looked after.

Of course, relationships with works councils and trade unions are often about difficult things. There is always potential for misunderstanding and mistrust, and that is why, ever since we created our works councils in 1998, I have always taken a deep, personal interest in the way these negotiations and discussions work. I have developed a good professional relationship with the members of our works councils and the representatives of our two main trade unions, PCS (the Public and Commercial Services Union) and Unite. By doing that, I have been able to make sure talks are open, concerns can be brought to the surface, and that we can minimise misunderstandings.

We have found the big TUPE transfers and changes we have made in the business have gone through quite smoothly. We have been able to take account of people’s needs before making these changes.

Having that kind of relationship with the trade unions means we can talk through problems and try to find an answer. Sometimes, if it doesn’t work, we have to resort to more traditional practices. We didn’t set out to have a cosy relationship with the trade unions, but it is open. We try to solve problems rather than take positions against one another.

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