UK employers expect more union unrest over change programmes

Employers are anticipating a possible union backlash over efforts to restructure their business and change working practices in the coming year, according to research.

More than half of the 431 employers responding to the HR Prospects survey, conducted by Personnel Today’s sister title IRS Employment Review, admitted there was a possibility they will become involved in a collective dispute in the coming year.

The most likely cause of a disagreement is pay (38%) – which causes more disputes in all sectors than any other. But business restructuring (23%) and changes in working practices (28%) were also singled out as likely flashpoints.

In both instances, the proportion of employers saying these are the likely causes of disputes has doubled over the past 12 months.

“These findings provide the first evidence that the task of re-organising and restructuring organisations is not just the hardest task facing employers, but also one of the most likely to provoke a backlash from the shopfloor,” the research stated.

It added that this should sound an early warning for employers planning to push ahead with major change programmes in the face of employee opposition.

The proportion of respondents from each sector citing pensions as a possible cause of dispute remains much the same as last year (21%).

The research also revealed that the introduction of the Information and Consultation (I&C) Regulations has had little impact on the way employers communicate with staff. Half of employers disagreed with the statement: ‘The I&C regulations have changed our relationship with the unions and the workforce’, with 27% disagreeing strongly.

More IRS research

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