HR practitioners predict a one in five chance that their organisation will be involved in a collective dispute with their workforce over the next 12 months, according to research by Personnel Today's sister publication, Employment Review.
The survey of 188 organisations, which together have more than 785,000 employees, asked respondents to estimate the likelihood that they would be involved in a strike or some other collective dispute. Overall, respondents put the chances of a dispute at 19%. But this varied according to the size of organisation and its economic sector.
Private sector companies providing services put their chances of a dispute lowest - averaging just 8%. This rose to 21% among manufacturers, and to 36% among respondents in public sector organisations.
By size of organisation, those with fewer than 250 employees believed there was just a 7% chance of a collective dispute. This rose to 15% of organisations with between 250 and 999 employees, and to 31% for those with 1,000 or more.
Although industrial militancy is at an all time low, with fewer days lost to strikes in 2006 than in any year since records began in 1891, official figures do not reflect collective disputes that are resolved through negotiation or lesser forms of industrial action.
Figures on collective disputes also fail to reflect 'unorganised conflict' in the workplace, where low-level disputes, often in non-union environments, are reflected in higher levels of absence or employment tribunal claims.
Pay is top of the flashpoint league table
Pay is the most likely flashpoint for collective employment disputes in the year ahead, the Employment Review survey reveals. More than four out of 10 (43%) of employers believe that if there is a collective dispute at their organisation, it will be over general pay issues. This rises to 53% among public sector organisations and to 62% among manufacturers.
Most manufacturers foresee little chance of a dispute over other issues. But they are more likely than employers in other sectors to see training and development (12%) or health and safety (3.8%) as possible problem areas.
Public sector employers foresee changes in working practices (40%), restructuring (36%) and redundancy (20%) as potential flashpoints