Acas celebrates 30 years

Conciliation service Acas is celebrating its 30th anniversary this week – but without any beer and sandwiches in sight.

Acas was formed in 1975 at the height of industrial disputes with talks often continuing deep into the night, fuelled by beer (at 32 pence a pint) and sandwiches (46p per pound for cheese and 14p for a large loaf).

An Acas spokesman said that the organisation now focused on educating, informing and training the UK’s employers and employees about good employment relations practice.

Here are some things you might not know about how the industrial relations landscape has changed in 30 years:

  • Days lost through strikes – down from 5.5 million to 214,000 in 2004-05.

  • Growth in the workforce – there has been a 13% increase in the labour force, from 22 million to almost 25 million.

  • Gender shift – women make up the extra workforce, with the number of women working having increased from under nine million to more than 12 million. The number of men in work has fallen from 13 million to 12.6 million.

  • Employment tribunal applications – unfair dismissal cases have increased from 24,367 to 34,864 today. In 2004-05 there were 81,833 employment tribunal applications, although 75% of those were settled or withdrawn.

  • Disputes – despite the increase in the labour force the number of collective disputes Acas has been involved in has halved – down from 2,228 to 1,123.

  • Trade unions – with many mergers there has been a huge reduction in the number of trade unions, from 488 to 67. Union membership has fallen too, down from almost 12 million to 7.4 million.

  • Acas helpline – calls to the Acas helpline have more than doubled – from 400,000 in 1978 to almost 900,000 last year.


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