CBI urges unions to be sensible about demands at TUC conference

Union demands being made at this year’s Trades Union Congress would harm UK competitiveness and turn the clock back on improved workplace relations, according to the CBI.

One of the biggest concerns arising out of the TUC agenda is the call for the extension of collective bargaining rights to cover pensions, training and equality audits.

The DTI is considering including pensions and training alongside holidays and pay in collective bargaining agreements, arguing this is increasingly becoming the norm in negotiations.

However, the CBI said this wasn’t true and “in no way reflects current practice”.

New research from the CBI shows that where a union represents staff only 16% of employers negotiate on pensions.

Half of the respondents (52%) said they would consult with unions on pensions and more than half (57%) already do so through their usual staff consultative committees.

CBI’s deputy director-general, John Cridland, said there was no justification for new rights to impose collective bargaining on pensions.

“Making the statutory process a more attractive option to unions would undermine the partnership approach,” he said. “Unions often represent certain sections of the workforce. Older workers, particularly, are more likely to want to secure their defined benefit pension provision and won’t be interested in defined contribution schemes.”

The TUC also wants to include training negotiations in collective bargaining.

Cridland said the interim Leitch Review had made it clear that the UK needed to raise its game on skills, but this would not be achieved through rights being given for time off or negotiations on training.

“Skills needs are best discussed on an individual basis,” he said. “Setting down a blanket prescription for a minimum spend per employee or the number of days spent training would ignore the needs of individuals and introduce damaging adversarial relationships.”

The CBI’s research findings also reflect growing dissatisfaction among employers about the skills of graduates.

The ’employability’ (teamworking, communication skills, etc) of graduates is now a concern for 30% of organisations (up from 20% last year) and graduate attitudes to work are a problem for a quarter of firms (up from 19%). University leavers lack business awareness, according to 44% of employers.

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