Pessimism as firms fear trade union strike threat

A resurgence in union strength could lead to an increased risk of strike
action, according to a survey by law firm DLA.

There has been a 100 per cent rise in the balloting of staff on industrial
action, claims the Ninth Annual DLA Survey on Industrial Relations. The latest
figures show that the number of days lost due to industrial disputes has risen
sharply from 242,000 in 1999 to 499,000 in 2000.

David Bradley, DLA’s group head of HR, said, "We feel more pessimistic
about the state of industrial relations in the UK than we have for a number of

As the annual TUC Congress takes place this week in Brighton, the survey
claims that union membership has also risen for the first time in a decade,
with a 1.5 per cent increase to 7.3 million.

Bradley said, "While we don’t envisage a return to the environment of
the 1970s or ’80s, it is clear that the unions have recovered some of the
influence lost during the Thatcher years. It is clear that the union movement
does not regard the current environment as being in equilibrium."

There is a shift towards using the threat of strikes much earlier in
negotiations, warns the survey. Nine out of 10 unions are predicting an
increase in unrest.

Bradley said, "The message is that employers do not regard their
managers as well enough equipped to deal with a partnership style of industrial

"Because of dwindling union numbers in the past, even reasonably senior
HR professionals are now coming into contact with unions for the first

The survey is based on 252 union and employer responses.

By Ross Wigham

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