Senior managers try to resist union recognition

More
than half of companies are attempting to resist union recognition despite the
Employment Relations Act 1999 (ERA), which introduced statutory procedures to
encourage recognition deals.

Research
from the Cambridge University’s MIT Institute finds that senior management is
attempting to block union recognition at 55 per cent of firms where recognition
is an issue.

Under
the ERA, employers with more than 20 staff, which have refused to enter into
voluntary recognition agreements, can be forced to if enough of its members are
in favour.

Dr
Sarah Oxenbridge, who conducted interviews with managers, trade unionists and
industry association officers at 60 firms, said although relations had
improved, companies were still reluctant to form partnerships. "We saw
many different tactics used by employers for stalling or manipulating
bargaining units," she said.

Oxenbridge
said opposition to union recognition came largely from senior managers, while
HR departments supported it. "Three-quarters of those firms resisting
unions were doing so because senior executives opposed recognition, but only a
tiny number of HR professionals agreed with this," she said.

Oxenbridge,
speaking at the Modernizing Employment in the 21st Century Conference last
week, said only a fifth of employers had taken steps to manage union
recognition effectively.

The
study also reveals companies would often form a partnership agreement with a
particular union, to avoid working with another it favoured less. It finds
employers have started to recruit more managers with experience in dealing with
unions since the introduction of the ERA.

CIPD
employee relations adviser Mike Emmott said partnerships need employer support
to be successful. "Firms have to be in for a penny, in for a pound, but
employer buy-in is difficult to measure. Breakdown is usually due to the extent
employers and staff are on board," he said.

By
Ross Wigham

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