Recognition

Church than to alter a statutory recognition deal. Or consider what happens if employers fail to fulfil ill-defined duties in the run up to a ballot – recognition may be imposed as a punishment.

There is no similar discipline on the unions to behave themselves: but they won’t be pleased when they find that the cat’s cradle of procedure can trip them up, too.

Here we go again. The biggest change to employment law in a generation has been introduced by the DTI without sufficient consultation or guidance. I doubt, for example, whether many companies outside EFSP membership have yet seen the binding code of practice on access for trade unions during ballots.

What happened to the warning EFSP issued last January, which so many practitioners applauded? A considered reply from Mr Byers was followed by a long silence. Then we had a session with an official, who sympathised with our complaints over the lack of consultation on the part-time work regulations – and promised no improvement for the future.

But we saw real progress when the minister announced that he was delaying their implementation by eight weeks to let employers prepare (though there was still no date for EFSP’s promised meeting). Repeated cajoling produced a letter from a correspondence clerk assuring us that they were “currently looking closely” at our “important concerns about the Part-Time Work regulations”. It arrived some weeks after these regulations had been finalised.

The people and organisations who have to turn statute into practice are treated like First World War infantry: taken for granted by out-of-touch politicians and staff officers who carelessly rely on their faithful service and never think to ask their opinion. Consultation must mean more than private chats with a magic circle of favoured partners. EFSP is determined to open it up.

DTI officials haven’t begun to consult about impending laws on fixed-term work. Why? Because they are so busy with part-time work. US President Gerald Ford was once accused of not being able to walk and chew gum at the same time. Such honest simplicity was a welcome relief after “Tricky Dickie” Nixon. But it is no way to run the Department of Trade and Industry in today’s global marketplace.

I have been helping a lot of employers recently to follow the new law on trade union recognition. The law is set out in Schedule 1 to the 1999 Act, running to 60 pages of small print. It is complex, cumbersome and almost incomprehensible. Heaven help the employer who fails to get practical advice on it now.

Recognition does not just affect those who have persistently resisted working with trade unions. Where a business has dealt with unions for years, full-time officials may now want to widen the bargaining agenda, or to extend their reach to more of the workforce. How should employers respond? What does the law require? What are they allowed to do?

There is going to be trouble. Many employers are sympathetic to the Government’s policy of ensuring that workforces should have recognition where a majority say in a ballot that they want it. Others are not. But they all grow bewildered and angry when we take them through the Byzantine processes of the recognition procedure.

Take the way the law deals with organisational change – a constant in business today. It would be quicker and easier to arrange a divorce in the Catholic Church than to alter a statutory recognition deal. Or consider what happens if employers fail to fulfil ill-defined duties in the run up to a ballot – recognition may be imposed as a punishment.

There is no similar discipline on the unions to behave themselves: but they won’t be pleased when they find that the cat’s cradle of procedure can trip them up, too.

Here we go again. The biggest change to employment law in a generation has been introduced by the DTI without sufficient consultation or guidance. I doubt, for example, whether many companies outside EFSP membership have yet seen the binding code of practice on access for trade unions during ballots.

What happened to the warning EFSP issued last January, which so many practitioners applauded? A considered reply from Mr Byers was followed by a long silence. Then we had a session with an official, who sympathised with our complaints over the lack of consultation on the part-time work regulations – and promised no improvement for the future.

But we saw real progress when the minister announced that he was delaying their implementation by eight weeks to let employers prepare (though there was still no date for EFSP’s promised meeting). Repeated cajoling produced a letter from a correspondence clerk assuring us that they were “currently looking closely” at our “important concerns about the Part-Time Work regulations”. It arrived some weeks after these regulations had been finalised.

The people and organisations who have to turn statute into practice are treated like First World War infantry: taken for granted by out-of-touch politicians and staff officers who carelessly rely on their faithful service and never think to ask their opinion. Consultation must mean more than private chats with a magic circle of favoured partners. EFSP is determined to open it up.

DTI officials haven’t begun to consult about impending laws on fixed-term work. Why? Because they are so busy with part-time work. US President Gerald Ford was once accused of not being able to walk and chew gum at the same time. Such honest simplicity was a welcome relief after “Tricky Dickie” Nixon. But it is no way to run the Department of Trade and Industry in today’s global marketplace.

Comments are closed.