Power sharing is the key to successful partnerships with unions

The secret to a successful partnership with unions in the upcoming recession is to maintain the balance of power, HR directors and union officials told delegates at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s annual conference.

Neil Perry, head of HR with insurer Legal & General, said that staff satisfaction and engagement had improved thanks to the partnership with Unite.

“Openness is crucial for a partnership to work, and that means sharing company plans early and often,” Perry said. “Both sides need the business to succeed, and it’s that common goal that needs emphasis for all partnerships.”

Perry was joined at  by Andrew Case, the national secretary for Unite, in explaining how the partnership extended into even into personal development reviews and draft business plans. More than 40% of Legal & General’s staff (approximately 4,000 employees) are members of the union.

Tony McCarthy, British Airways’ director for people & organisational effectiveness, added that his experiences in dealing with unions always came down to ensuring both sides worked as equals.

“Both the employer and the union have different objectives, but you need a joint-goal that can only be achieved by working together with equal power on both sides if you want this to work,” McCarthy told Personnel Today. “Sometimes people are set in a particular way and have old scores to settle, and that’s when it comes down to leadership at the top to control that, and ensure the balance of power doesn’t move too much on either side.”

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