Rumour has it the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) starts work on 6 June. Unions all over the country are making lists, arranging meetings and printing booklets.
Yet the voluntary traditions of British industrial relations die hard. How many of us who have been to endless seminars with lawyers about the ins and outs of the CAC can remember a single word of the legal advice before we click our briefcases shut?
There are dozens of large companies which had decided not to involve trade unions in their HR strategy which are discussing the possibility of recognition. What is interesting is the variety of questions emerging. Some companies don't want anyone to know they are thinking this through. The motel on the edge of your town is overflowing with Secret Squirrels.
Others wheel in staff consultative committees and ask the union to dance to the tunes of partnership.
The challenge from the union point of view is to see how far we can go with a joint agenda. Can we produce a trade union culture, trade union activity and trade union services that give confidence to workers, iron out manifestations of bullying and add value?
If union work can engage managerial respect, we are more likely to persuade managers they can treat our submissions with the seriousness we think they deserve. My Trotskyist enemies still believe we will only win the workers their just desserts out of the ashes of the destruction of capitalism. Unions are finding the courage to shout from the rooftops that this is just not true.
But once oppositionist comfort blankets of this sort are removed, what is left? Are unions doomed to be associated with conflict, disagreement and failure? Is it impossible for us to organise workplace opinions in support of profitability? Are we to stay for ever victims?
One company in the South Midlands provided an audience for me to describe the benefits of partnership and recognition to a group of the local works council. One man asked the $64,000 question, "This is a good company. What can you do for me that it would not do anyway?"
Both he and the company need an independent body to organise opinion professionally and without personal bias. Only then would the individual have somewhere to go if his HR manager turned out to be more Cruella De Vil than Snow White. The individual and the company need independent competence from the union in things like safety, li